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Maintaining Trust in a Difficult Economy Requires
Consistent, Credible Messaging

by Bill Bergman

For nonprofits to survive when consumer confidence is low, “maintaining the trust of current and prospective donors is essential,” Bill Bergman, president and CEO of the Bergman Group, a Richmond, Va.-based integrated communications company, said recently.

“New media channels can create opportunities to reinforce this trust,” said the veteran advertising and publishing executive who has seen his share of market volatility over the past 30 years. “Only through new media, which enables nonprofits to communicate instantly and consistently with their audiences, can marketing opportunities be maximized,” Bergman said.

In times of uncertainty, the adjunct professor of business at the University of Richmond offered these guidelines for creating and maintaining trustworthy brands:

  • Be Consistent. Trust depends upon a consistent message, reinforced over time. Now is not the time for abrupt starts and stops in communications, which can undermine your reputation. Historically, organizations that have withstood hard times have stayed true to their core brand, while adapting to external market conditions.

  • Choose a Credible Medium. Reach your audience in the media they find most credible. You must consider the generation and the demographics of the group with which you are communicating. Text messaging might be effective with teens but not with a more mature audience, who would find this medium intrusive and abrupt.

  • Respond to Changing Conditions. New media makes it possible to monitor changes in public attitudes in real time. Capturing this data also enables you to modify your communications in response to these shifts, which is essential in times of economic uncertainty.

  • Watch Your Tone. This is a time to be acutely sensitive to your audience. The days when you could hammer home your message are long past. New technology allows audiences to opt out of messaging they find intrusive. You must be invited in, which calls for a softer, more subtle tone.”

“Integrated communications, when the message is consistent and the tone is appropriate, can help nonprofits stay in touch with donors and maintain the trust that is necessary to survive in a difficult economy,” Bergman said.

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About the Author:

A strategic partner of Marts & Lundy, the Bergman Group has worked with such nonprofit clients as the National Audubon Society, Beth Sholom Lifecare Community, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, and William and Mary School of Business.

For more information on the Bergman Group, visit

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