Trust in the Outdoors: REI

After going through my social media sites and online routines, I discovered I really don’t follow any particular individual. While there are individuals I trust, I really didn’t want to write a blog about my family, friends or co-workers. So I’m going out on a limb for this assignment, I went with one of the few companies I follow – Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) and decided I would focus on them and why I trust them.

rei-logo-black1

In going through this week’s readings and lecture materials, I really questioned why I trust REI and what this organization gets out of gaining my trust. To answer these questions, I wanted to use Steve Rayson’s New Formula For Social Media Trust; however, I don’t completely agree with this equation, so I’d like to use my own trust equation to assess my relationship REI and why I trust them:

Trust =

Honesty x Credibility x Reliability x Accuracy x  Intimacy x Care/Respect

Self–Orientation

Honesty. I never get the sense that the REI social media team or customer service representatives are deceitful or lying about the content or blogs they post. There’s always a helpful, informative message on outdoor activities or gear. And they even have terms and conditions!

REI Facebook Terms
Credibility. When I interact with REI – be it online, social media or brick and mortar, I am interacting with individuals who specialize in a particular area who can provide me with first-hand accounts / personal experience on “gear and apparel for outdoor pursuits, including hiking, cycling, fitness, camping, snowsports, traveling, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching and more.

REI Expert Advice

Below are two helpful demonstration videos that outline REI’s credibility:

https://www.facebook.com/REI/videos?fref=photo#!/video.php?v=32871248841&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater

https://www.facebook.com/REI/videos?fref=photo#!/video.php?v=32870978841&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater

Reliable. Reviewing REI’s Facebook site, the company is consistently provided new content for its members in the forms of informative links, images, videos. You can always count on the site having update material throughout the day.

REI Consistency 1 REI Consistency 2 REI Consistency 3
Timeliness. REI may receive a negative mark for this variable in my equation, but only because I couldn’t find any comments or responses. They did a nice job tying in timely external events, but in terms of communicating to users, I struggled to find any conversations like the Northern Rail Twitter examples from lecture.

MLK Day 2 MLK Day
Intimacy.  I find I am aligned with REI’s mission and philosophy – i.e. They “inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Outdoor adventure and stewardship is something I do in my free time and it is refreshing to see a company have the same set of beliefs. I am very comfortable with this organization and find I am listened to and when I ask for help and I am not judged.
https://www.facebook.com/REI/videos?ref=page_internal#!/video.php?v=3577324953677&set=vb.9062006483&type=2&theater

Accuracy. With something as technical as outdoor sports, accurate information with outdoor enthusiasts is essential to creating that connection and trust. Providing accurate information could me life or death:

REI accuracy  2

Care and Respect. Reading REI’s posts, I feel one gets a sense of compassion and respect for those who love the outdoors; including the  following examples:

REI accuracy 1

REI Summer Adventures- Campsite
This summer, REI adventures all start at the campsite. Choose which REI summer adventure you would like to see next. #REIGearUp— at National Park Service – Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

Sliding Through the Magic Hour: Sunset Vermont Skiing by Ember Photography on the REI Blog: http://bit.ly/1ynwwwO
Self-Orientation is another component where REI may receive a negative grade. This is a for-profit company so many of the social media communications reference sales, gift ideas, gear sold in stores, etc. The call to action was pretty clear – go only to REI to get your outdoor gear. But is this necessarily a bad thing? REI is providing me a community to discuss and share my ideas, with local experts who I can open up to and not be judged. They demonstrate care and respect for what I am passionate about and they are very accurate, timely and reliable.


How does REI benefit from my trust?

  • Communication By trusting them, I help distribute their message for free. With every click, like and share, I’m promoting them as trustworthy, outdoor experts.
  • Referrals. By sharing their information, and in personal conversations, I refer friends and family to their sites and stores.
  • Pure Profit. Because I am aligned with them and appreciate what they provide, I will only go to them for my outdoor shopping needs.

Looking at why I trust REI through The Trusted Advisor lens (My lecture reaction has more background on this book), I feel it addresses and demonstrates the characteristics of a trustful company. Below is a passage about what characteristics Trusted Advisors share the from a client perspective:
• Are consistent, we can depend on them
• Don’t try to force things on us
• Help us think things through (it’s our decision)
• Don’t substitute their judgment for ours
• Help us think and separate our logic from our emotion
• Don’t pull their punches (we can rely on them to tell us the truth)
• Give us reasoning (help us think) not just their conclusions
• Challenge our assumptions (help us uncover the false assumptions we’ve been working under)
• Make us feel comfortable and casual personally (but they take the issues seriously)
• Act like a real person, not someone in a role
• Are reliably on our side and always seem to have our interests at heart
• Have a sense of humor to diffuse (our) tension in tough situations

What do you think? How many of these characteristics does REI achieve?
I found this quote from Steve Covey and thought it did a nice job of summarizing trust. I’ll leave you with this thought –

“Nothing is as fast as the speed of trust. Nothing is as fulfilling as a relationship of trust. Nothing is as inspiring as an offering of trust. Nothing is as profitable as the economics of trust. Nothing has more influence than a reputation of trust.” – Stephen Covey

Questions:
• Would you agree with my assessment of REI? Do you view them as a trustworthy company?
• Using your own trust equation, how would you rank REI?
• Should individuals and companies be held to two different levels or standards of trust?

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About Frank Clouser

I'm currently the Senior Corporate Relations Manager for Allstate Insurance's Northwest Region. I lead the regional corporate relations department responsible for reputation management, strategic communications, media relations, issues management, community relations and employee communications in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Hawaii. I manage integrated communications that drive outcomes aimed at increasing engagement, strengthen brand reputation and increase consumer consideration of Allstate. I also proactively manage emerging and existing issues that may have an impact on overall business performance and Allstate's reputation. Provide strategic counsel to Field Senior Vice President and regional partners as a member of the region's senior leadership team.

2 responses to “Trust in the Outdoors: REI”

  1. Angela Cook says :

    Hi Frank,

    I very much enjoyed your post! I felt the same way that you did when embarking on this assignment because I don’t really follow many individuals on social media either. I knew of one that I kept tabs on in the past, and therefore I wrote about her and her online brand as she does a great job in the trust department.

    I do think your assessment of REI is fair and accurate. I thought it was interesting that you included “accuracy” as a critical component in your self-evaluation. You mentioned in this situation, “Providing accurate information could mean life or death.” How true! I think this also ties into the element of responsibility that organizations have to themselves, their clients, and their communities. Thinking about it now, I didn’t include a company’s sense of responsibility in my own revision of The Trust Formula, but I wish that I had! Whenever I see a brand taking a serious and concerned ownership of its commitments, it makes me trust them more. (This includes community involvement as well,) It seems that REI is doing this with its accuracy.

    After reading your brief bio, I see how this topic of trust might be exceptionally important to you considering your role in the insurance industry. Trust must be HUGE with your brand! I’d imagine it’s a driving goal behind Allstate’s “You’re in good hands” slogan? I worked for Geico several years ago, and so I understand how challenging, yet critical, establishing that trust can be. I think this is another example in which your element of accuracy is considered. People’s financial security is serious business, and they look to their insurance company to lead them in the right direction.

    Thanks for the excellent information!

    Like

    • Frank Clouser says :

      Angela, thank you for your note. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who struggled with finding someone I follow on social media. Thanks for your note about accuracy, the readings really got me thinking – trust is great, but if you’re inaccurate or receiving wrong information – who cares how reliable, credible, honest, caring and personal you are.

      This is especially for companies that provide services or advice. If the company is counseling or selling you a product, that does do what they say it will – the trust formula is completely out of balance and worse you could be seriously injured or worse.

      Community involvement is a critical element for a company’s reputation, but it’s a fine line between educating and informing the public about what you do and grandstanding, self-promoting.

      You are spot on! Trust, credibility and reputation is a huge part of my job and part of the independent business owners (Allstate agency owners) who help protect and prepare consumers from life’s uncertainties. There are dozens of insurance companies out there and anyone can sell a product to a customer. The challenge, like you said, is why should I do it with one vs. another company. What’s fascinating is the agent vs. self-serving model. Certain segments want a trusted advisor who can help them make decisions – think H&R Block for taxes, financial advisor for retirement, etc. Then take a look at the trust formula and apply to the business world.

      I’m very passionate about my role and love what I can do to help local communities and small business owners. Thank you for your comment and post!

      Are there any companies you’d consider that have good reputation or that you would say are trustful or that you would do business with because of the community involvement?

      Random question – are you aware of Allstate’s involvement community involvement efforts? (This may depend on what state your in too). I ask because I’m curious on how well know our community outreach efforts are known.

      Like

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