If com­pa­nies want to make trusted con­nec­tions with today’s con­sumers, they must deliver authentic sto­ries through inspi­ra­tional expe­ri­ences, according to Karen Kaplan, chairman and CEO of the adver­tising agency Hill Holliday.

Sto­ry­telling will never lose its power, but a great brand story that isn’t sup­ported by an equally great brand expe­ri­ence only serves to fur­ther erode cus­tomer trust,” said Kaplan, who served as the keynote speaker at Northeastern’s CEO Break­fast Forum on Wednesday.

The series gives leading CEOs the oppor­tu­nity to share their exper­tise with audi­ences of other CEOs and senior exec­u­tives from the Greater Boston area.

Kaplan noted that con­sumer trust has shifted from an indus­trial era, in which con­sumers relied upon large insti­tu­tions and their leaders to ful­fill their oblig­a­tions, to a human era, in which con­sumers want to make per­sonal con­nec­tions with com­pa­nies and feel as though their voices are being heard.

It’s a shift that is rel­e­vant to every com­pany that is doing busi­ness today and it presents a tremen­dous growth oppor­tu­nity for those of us who embrace it,” Kaplan said. “We believe that becoming a human era brand is an essen­tial way of approaching busi­ness in our con­nected age.”

Social media, Kaplan explained, is one of the pri­mary dri­ving forces behind the shift in con­sumer trust because it allows cus­tomers to more easily share with the masses their sto­ries and expe­ri­ences with industry. “Influ­encers come from every­where now,” she noted.

Kaplan started working for Hill Hol­l­iday in 1982 when she was hired by the Boston-​​based agency as a recep­tionist. She rose through the com­pany ranks and was named chair and CEO ear­lier this year. Busi­ness Insider and Adver­tising Age have been named her one of the most influ­en­tial women in adver­tising, and she was a dri­ving force in helping Hill Hol­l­iday grow to more than $1 bil­lion in annual billings. It is cur­rently the 13th largest adver­tising agency in the country.

Kaplan is also the imme­diate past chair of the Greater Boston Chamber of Com­merce and a member of the Clinton Global Ini­tia­tive. Last year, she joined other Boston busi­ness leaders to estab­lish the One Fund, which raises money to help the sur­vivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

In his wel­coming remarks, North­eastern Board of Trustees Chair Henry Nasella, UC’77, H’08, acknowl­edged the North­eastern stu­dents in atten­dance including rep­re­sen­ta­tives of SCOUT, the university’s new student-​​led design studio. “It’s just a great example of the kinds of talent this uni­ver­sity pro­duces,” Nasella said.

During a Q-​​and-​​A fol­lowing her talk, Kaplan fielded ques­tions from audi­ence mem­bers ranging from how to get com­pany leaders to buy into the shift to the human era, to how the human era model can be used to forge con­nec­tions between businesses.

She was also asked to offer a crisis strategy for brands such as Gen­eral Motors, which in 2014 has recalled more than 13 mil­lion vehi­cles, as well as other com­pa­nies that have faced crit­i­cism over mis­steps and whose CEOs have tried to make amends in the face of neg­a­tive news.

Human era brands are imper­fect,” Kaplan said. “Just like human beings are. And what brands have to learn is they are going to make mis­takes, they have to own up to those mis­takes, and then come for­ward with a plan to improve.”