Trust is becoming the urgent issue of our time
A view from Maisie McCabe

Trust is becoming the urgent issue of our time

Many big news stories of recent years have centred on trust.

Whether that’s the trust that constituents have in their MPs, readers have in their journalists or fans have in their favourite sport. I felt for The Sunday Times a little this weekend when its latest contribution to the canon was outshone in less than 24 hours with the co-ordinated global publication of the "Panama papers".

As Gideon Spanier says, it can be difficult – but not impossible – to make a profit through news. And investigative journalism tends to be the least profitable form of newsgathering due to the sheer time and expertise needed. But, as the issue continued to dominate news bulletins and front pages as the week wore on, it was clear that the Panama papers is a story with legs. Indeed, a full list of people and companies implicated will not be published until May. 

The issue of trust comes up a few times in this week’s Campaign. In Kate Magee’s fantastic profile of the brilliant – and eccentric – Tony Kaye, we hear about how he found new inspiration on a farm in Devon. The Black Farmer, aka Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, trusted Kaye to create something that was "ahead of the curve". You could never accuse the resulting two-minute film of being mediocre. It premières during Gogglebox on Channel 4 tomorrow evening and will be available to watch on shortly after. 

It’s hard to imagine the marketing directors featured in the research dissected by James Swift trusting their agencies – never mind a director – in the same way Emmanuel-Jones put his faith in Kaye. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the ongoing Association of National Advertisers investigation, the US respondents were above all worried about how agencies make money. On this side of the Atlantic, the issue of rebates gives marketers the most sleepless nights. Both concerns are clearly linked, if not exactly the same thing.

If marketers don’t trust their agencies, is it any wonder that many of them fail to get traction in the boardroom? If you don’t believe in the people you have commissioned to help you do your job, how do you expect your colleagues to respect your position? After all, it seems unlikely to me that an operations director would fail to have faith in their logistics provider. 

Agencies also need to prove that they are worthy of their clients’ confidence, of course. You can hardly blame people for turning to those they know first, as Robert Senior has with Kate Stanners, when opportunities come up. But get it right – with both parties believing in each other – and the probability of success has got to increase.