With the recent publication of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer report, research by this world class public relations agency has clearly established a significant lack of trust between general publics and institutions/organizations.
How much lack of trust? Two-thirds of people no longer trust institutions. And not just in the United States, but worldwide.
You don’t’ trust that company you have been doing business with for years. You don’t trust your federal agencies; you don’t trust local governmental units; you don’t trust that not-for–profit you have supported for years.
Why? Well, there are Ph.D. theses being written on this subject right now. Trust, however, almost always has to do with connecting communication with actual behaviors. When those two aren’t perceived as matching, there is distrust. Perhaps a little over simplistic, but the real issue is…
What does it mean for public relations professionals who work daily to create and maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationships with key publics? It means your traditional methods will no longer work!
Media? Forgetaboudit! More people trust a search on Bing or Google more than their local or national editors in traditional media. Readership is up, but trust is not.
Governmental units? Yeah, I don’t think so.
Global NGOs? Nope. These were formerly the most trusted organizations in the world. They now suffer from the same problems.
So what to do?
We must return to the tried and true techniques we always used: personal communication and word of mouth between individuals. If you have employees, they are now your best communicators because they talk with neighbors, family, and friends. They have their own networks. and if they trust you they can communicate that trust to others who trust them. Taking this into the 21st Century, they are also effective on social media. Same principle. We trust our peers, but not our organizations and institutions.
Now apply it to customers or vendors who do trust your organization. They can do the same thing. We’re back to a form of “all public relations is local.” It’s all about relationships.
So, it takes employees (and some others) who trust your organization. Do you have that? Yes? Excellent, begin. No? So sorry. You have a lot of work to do.
The Edelman Trust Barometer is a MUST read for anyone in public relations today. It won’t make you happy, but you gotta know.