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February 8, 2018

4 Ways to Navigate the Trust Apocalypse

Three events I look forward to this time each year? The Super Bowl, the State of the Union address and the release of Edelman’s Trust Barometer. New England Patriots aside, this year is no exception.

I spent the last year wondering what could possibly follow Trust in Crisis. On January 22, we found out: The Battle for Truth.

Trust is plummeting at home

The decline in trust in the U.S. last year is unprecedented throughout the history of the Barometer. In fact, every institution (business, government, media, NGOs) in the U.S. is now distrusted by the general population. As Richard Edelman describes it in his video, “America, at the moment, is at sea.”

But there’s hope. Among the informed public, business and NGOs may not be trusted, but neither are they distrusted. In this environment, businesses can’t afford to stay silent or operate without a broader mission. Solid strategic plans and communications strategies are vital in navigating back to dry ground.

A return to expertise

Worldwide, media is now the least-trusted institution. Contributing to this distrust is the prevalence of fake news—nearly 70 percent of those surveyed worry about the weaponization of fake news. But for the first time ever, journalism’s trust level is rising while social media and search engines experience erosions in trust.

In fact, journalists saw their credibility rebound more than any other type of spokesperson, followed by CEOs, boards of directors, government officials, financial industry analysts and technical experts. Whose credibility tanked most? “A person like yourself.” That’s right: word of mouth is down, and trust for experts is up.

So, what can communicators do?

  1. Speak up. Your credibility hinges on facts—and not “the facts in the best possible light.” Safeguard the truth, and inform rather than advocate.
  2. Help journalists do their jobs. People expect media to provide high-quality information, educate on important issues and inform good life decisions.
  3. Infuse your storytelling with experts. Stories featuring the Average Joe won’t be as easily embraced as before. Though stories still help people process information, rely on experts to back them up.
  4. Choose your influencers wisely. Your influencers must be more than merely popular or relatable. Build credibility by relying on influencers with expertise, official credentials and a reputation for understanding the facts.

Eleven and a half months until the next Barometer comes out—I can hardly wait. Until then, can Tom Brady please retire?

Editor’s note: The content above borrows heavily from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report and associated web-based tools. Explore the full results here.

How do you build credibility for your organization? Tweet to @JayRayAdsPR