June 14, 2017


The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer came out in January, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Edelman summed up 2016 with three words: Trust in Crisis. The report summary reads, “The general population’s trust in all four key institutions—business, government, NGOs and media—has declined broadly.”

A crisis of trust should be a call to action for any public relations professional, but what action do we take?

In a recent interview for a research project, I spoke with someone whose answers caught my attention. The interviewee said, “It’s probably just a Knoxville thing, but we trust each other here.”

Trust? But how? Could this interview hold the answer?

What I learned mirrored findings I’d uncovered in prior research: The success of a program was more often determined by the traits of the program’s operator than by any overarching program policies or practices. The traits that led to success?
  1. Neutrality: Program operators were perceived to be neutral.
  2. Helpfulness: Program operators went out of their way to make participation easy.
Pitch as a neutral, helpful party
Coincidentally, neutrality and helpfulness are two traits you can apply in a myriad of situations to increase your odds for success. Take media pitching, for example:

Reporters working on tight deadlines have dozens of pitches to choose from in their inbox. Make yours stand out by including sources beyond just your client or organization to provide additional research for a story. Better yet, include thumbnail photos hyperlinked to the high-resolution versions (video clips work, too!) to make the reporter’s job simpler.

Facilitating meetings, developing content for social media and newsletters, establishing client relationships and managing a project team could all use a healthy dose of these traits as well.

A worldwide crisis of trust isn’t going to go away overnight, but as communications professionals, we all have a role to play in healing the divide. Without trust, messaging fails.

Have other ideas on how to incorporate these traits into your work? Tweet us at @JayRayAdsPR.