By: Olivia Schlesinger
Trust, a word that is easy to define, but something so difficult to earn. Especially in our current media climate, trust does not come around often, and when it does, individuals and organizations must grab it while they can. Not only should they grab it, but they should understand the crucial implications of it and use it to its full potential.
According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, “In this environment, media has become the least-trusted institution for the first time in Trust Barometer history – yet, at the same time, the credibility of journalists rose substantially.” This is unprecedented. The public eye is becoming more and more skeptical of media organizations, and rightfully so, with the exponential growth of “fake news.” Due to this information, consumers want to know where their information is coming from and if that source is reputable.
Furthermore, how do organizations work to combat this phenomenon and regain the public’s trust? The answer may lie within another word that is easy to define but very difficult to implement – transparency.
Almost everything in today’s media world can relate back to being transparent. Dealing with a crisis? Be transparent. Implementing new programming? Be transparent. Rebranding a company image? Be transparent. Being open and honest with the public is key to establishing credibility.
As a result, organizations are becoming increasingly less in control of their own messages. They can disseminate all the messages they want, but in order for these messages to stick and make a difference, the organizations must earn the approval and support of the public.
Going back to the quote from Edelman, journalists are gaining credibility. This may seem surprising at first, but it actually makes sense. Journalists have the unique ability to be portrayed as both an individual with individual views and as an employee of an organization. In this sense, they do not always have to be tied to larger organizations who may have other imposing views, thus, giving them more opportunity to be trusted.
Along with this, the media industry is seeing a rise in micro-influencers as well. Although micro-influencers may have less of a following than other figures in terms of sheer numbers, they have a tendency to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships with their followers. These followers develop a sense of trust in the influencers, which is why it is beneficial for organizations to take advantage of this trend and build rapports with related micro-influencers.
What does this mean for us as PR practitioners? We must face this challenge head on. Roll with the punches, but never lose sight of our main goals and the goals of our clients. The public relations industry, and the communications industry as a whole, is constantly changing. Information is being sent and received constantly, negating the traditional news cycle, and we must be ready for this.
PR practitioners must be prepared at all times and flexible in the ever-changing field. With so much information floating around, it is crucial for us to sort through the clutter and give our audiences exactly what they are looking for, in a manner that establishes a deeper connection and mutual trust with them. This may be easier said than done, but acknowledging the trends is the first step to using them and taking full advantage of their potential rewards.