When all is said and done, in the world of business, it's all about trust. Without support based on trust, the mighty stumble and the weak fall. You can say the same about chief communication officers.

That's why now, at a time of unusual challenges, it makes so much sense for Page's leaders and members to be running with the big hitters like the Business Roundtable in pursuit of the one condition that can lift the cloud of suspicion overhanging business: trustworthiness in every public company.

We believe that senior corporate communicators can—in fact, must—bring counsel to bear in their respective companies and in the overall business process of achieving, institutionalizing and sustaining trustworthy governance.

If you draw this down to the communicator's level, it means we have to be trustworthy counselors. So that's what this commentary is about, how CCO's get and leverage their individual, professional, personal trustworthiness in the C-suite, so they can help lift that dismal corporate cloud.

What I've learned through interaction with many of you in this Society, and certainly through the constant reminders in the Page program—is that the top PR counselor is considered a person to trust on the strength of a relatively few factors.

First is experience—and the relevant evidence that experience provides for the counselor to put to use in C-suite decision making.

In the Page Society, we've come to believe in the strategic linkage of two Arthur W. Page principles—that “tell the truth" requires “prove it with evidence."

We know that careless assertions gain no respect. To persuade, you need evidence.

So, I've found that effective CCOs do their homework, and are always thinking: What evidence do I need, based on actual experience, to add value to the management decision process? What does my own professional experience teach me? What can I learn from the experience of others—the experiences shared, for example, within Page?

Relevant situations can then be cited—simply, directly, authoritatively—much as the lawyer does when he stops the discussion or moves it toward a better outcome by citing case law.

When the CCO is effective in speaking truth to power inside the company, drawing on relevant experience, he or she moves toward being perceived as something of an expert, perhaps even as wise, and importantly, a trustworthy counselor.

A CCO is deemed trustworthy, it seems to me, as the result of the application at the top management level of his or her talents.

This of course is a big, spongy area. Talents range all over the place. But three particular talents seem to me to be especially important: The ability to write, the ability to listen and the ability to connect the dots.

Naturally, this is a personal view. My own route into PR began as a newspaper reporter, covering politics at a daily in Columbus, Georgia. One day while I was bent over my Selectric typewriter in the newsroom, I got a call from a member of Congress serving the Alabama district where I had previously lived and worked. I had interviewed Rep. Ken Roberts, Democrat, Alabama 4th district, for the Talladega News and apparently he liked what I wrote enough that he asked me, “How would you like to come to Washington and be my press secretary?"

I said yes, making the decision others in Page have made to jump from one presumed career path to another, thinking I was off to the exciting world of major politics and government. In fact, it was not all that thrilling. I was put to work writing answers to constituent letters about crops and Veteran benefits, a few speeches, some of which never were used because my boss didn't want to be caught reading while speaking, some news releases about bills he was introducing or co-sponsoring, and one long assignment: ghost writing for the congressman a history of the Coosa-Alabama River whose path defined his congressional district.

But there, as with my jobs as a reporter, I exercised the talents that would help me in the corporate business jobs ahead. In addition to the important lesson of writing to position the congressman—in effect, my first client—to best advantage, to help him achieve his missions (essentially, to sustain his business by creating as many stakeholders, that is to say, voters, as possible), I was exercising two other talents that I now know effective CCOs put to use.

These are basically a lot of listening and trying to figure out how various facts and people and situations fit together.

My experience is that you create trust when you do this—in effect, you're the one person who can be relied on to listen carefully and react with questions and then coming up with options that are in the executive's best interest.

A CCO at the management table, or in meetings with peers and business unit managers, or the CCO at his or her desk when the CEO or the CFO shows up knows that the path toward trustworthy counseling starts with listening, asking a relevant question or two, and putting together this learning with what he or she knows, what's been learned through interaction with stakeholders and others in the company.

You can add your own talent stream here, and I hope you will do exactly that—to make this the dialogue it's intended to be.

I feel pretty strongly about the high value of writing. Somebody in Page—was it Larry Foster or Ed Block?—once said that the secret power of the PR person is the power of the first draft, and I believe that's true.

But I'm still learning—and one of the basic things I've learned is that writing has to be relevant and it has to be in the best form to be received by the people you're aiming at. So I applaud the leadership of the Page Society for the learning experience we get in our engagement with CEOs and stakeholders as the relevance of the old-school writing talent moves into new channels to connect with CEOs and stakeholders, seeking the advantage of public or citizen journalism, of blogging, of twittering (or is it tweeting?).

No matter how casual or compressed the flow of company information, writing will keep its place high among the talents that result in trustworthiness for the corporate communicator and those who counsel and assist CCOs. At least that's my view.

The point of this commentary, if you'll let me paraphrase Arthur Page, is that companies operating in a democracy need stakeholders to say yes to their success. We have to be doing our best to break through the clouds of distrust. Companies need to provide stakeholders the assurance of trustworthy governance. C-suites need the valuable weigh-in of trustworthy communication counselors. The general job, linking with the likes of the Business Roundtable, and the direct job of enabling CCOs to maximum management performance add up to worthy work for the Page Society. Do you see it this way? I'll be interested and respectful of your comments and questions. Like you, I suspect, I'm still in the learning mode.