#MMCCon Keynote: Build Trust With Marketing and Communications

Rohit Bhargava, founder of Non-Obvious Company, believes in the power of non-obvious marketing to build trust with various audiences. During the opening keynote at ASAE’s 2023 Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference, he shared five principles for telling authentic and compelling stories.

Being able to access a wealth of information comes with a lot of skepticism. How do you know if a piece of mass media is authentic, or if an advertisement does what it claims? In this environment, it’s not only hard to trust but also to earn trust from others.

According to Rohit Bhargava, founder of Non-Obvious Company, embracing non-obvious thinking can help organizations create stories that stand out and ring true for current and potential members.

“Sometimes there are more important things than what everyone else assumes is important,” Bhargava said during the opening keynote at ASAE’s 2023 Marketing, Membership, and Communications Conference. “We need to be able to do more, and we need to see the world and pay attention to what really matters.”

He outlined five principles of non-obvious marketing and how these techniques can help association professionals create authentic stories, achieve growth, and rebuild trust among different audiences.

Tell the Truth

Building trust among consumers, whether members or nonmembers, starts by championing honesty.

“You want to embrace the cold, hard, dirty, and beautiful truth,” Bhargava said. “You want to be proactively honest.”

He shared how the American Exploration and Mining Association has a section on its website explaining the future of mining to readers, including space mining and deep-sea mining. He discussed how the American Library Association doesn’t shy away from the problem of book banning in the U.S. and has information on its website about the top challenged books and a U.S. map that shows attempts to restrict access to books in each state.

“Tell the truth and share the truth as a way of building trust,” Bhargava said. “We’re trying to overcome skepticism, and proactive truth is the first step.”

Stories With Relevance

The way associations tell their stories matters. According to Bhargava, organizations can achieve relevance by engaging in purposeful storytelling. For example, weaving details, characters, and other storytelling elements into your organization’s website creates compelling content that can forge a connection with potential members.

For example, Bhargava shared that the American Amusement Machine Association was able to capture the fun, goofy side of its industry by highlighting a group photo of members pretending to wear virtual reality glasses.

“Tell a story about what people care about,” he said. “We want to see the details; we want to include personality in the story. Stories can build emotional connections with your audiences.”

Acts of Unselfishness

Performing acts of unselfishness can also go a long way with consumers. That means putting your members at the center of everything you do.

Bhargava shared the American Accounting Association’s efforts to embrace DEI by elevating different members. Similarly, the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music and Entertainment has a variety of programs and initiatives that showcases member stories and contributions.

“You want to celebrate all the people who are part of your community,” Bhargava said. “Offering a platform to celebrate the voices that matter helps build trust.”

Simplicity Matters

Turning your association’s complex ideas and goals into simple, clear messages can help capture people’s attention as well.

Bhargava shared how the ALS Association explained the complex neurodegenerative disease on its website: “ALS robs people of the ability to walk, talk, and eventually breathe.”  

“We think that we need visuals or images to create emotions. But we just need a powerful story that’s told in a simple way. Making it simple will help people remember,” Bhargava said.

Timing is Everything

Bhargava wrapped up his keynote by discussing the critical role timing plays in marketing and communications. According to Bhargava, you should move toward what people care about in the current moment, even if it may not be something they’ll focus on several months down the road.

“You want to engage in real time and be flexible,” he said. “Reach to what people care about in the moment. The more you can make it human, the more you can win.”

(Jarrett Hendrix)

Hannah Carvalho

By Hannah Carvalho

Hannah Carvalho is Senior Editor at Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!