Time for PR to help resolve trust crisis

10 March 2017 | 1:20 min read

With trust in institutions and their leaders plunging to an all-time low, excellence in public relations has never been more important.

The recently released 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, involving more than 30,000 respondents from 28 countries, paints a bleak picture.

Two-thirds of respondents said they don’t have confidence in leaders in business, government, NGOs and media.

What does this mean for business?

Peer-to-peer communication is king

The survey tells us perceptions of trustworthiness have transferred from “experts” to “people like me”.[1]

This means the voices of employees are more credible than CEOs, senior executives, media spokespeople or academics.

This “inversion of influence”[2] recognises that people trust in peer-to-peer communication, rather than institutions or authority figures.

If your company has something important to say, think carefully about who your messenger(s) are.

Step off the soapbox

Authenticity is increasingly becoming a driver of trust.

The survey shows direct, unfiltered candour is valued by the public as a style of communication they can trust.[3]

People are more likely to believe spontaneous speakers than rehearsed speakers, blunt and outspoken people over diplomatic and polite people, and a company’s social media over its advertising.

This doesn’t mean adopting a Trumpian Twitter persona but rather being conscious of your company’s public personality.

Recalibrate your stakeholder strategies

When it comes to engagement, do it properly or don’t do it at all.

While many business leaders recognise the folly of rushed consultation, the risks have been magnified by the speed with which communities can organise and influence online. If your stakeholder strategy is weak, the reach of your opponents can easily exceed that of your advocates.

Also, a better approach is doing things with people rather than doing things to them.[4]

Operating in today’s low-trust environment requires new thinking and new approaches to reputation management – an area where SenateSHJ excels.

If you’re facing a trust deficit, get in touch to find out how we can help.

[1] See slide 36/66 here

[2] See slide 4/66 here

[3] See slide 48/66 here

[4] See slide 50/66 here

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