March 23, 2017


For the first time ever, peers—or “someone like me”— tied with technical and academic experts as the most trusted source of information, according to Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer. Word of mouth has always been a powerful tool in the communications toolbox, but as trust for institutions and now experts continues to erode, it might suddenly be the only tool that matters.

What does that mean for PR? How can you gain public trust as an organization when the Average Joe is key to your credibility?

Draw on personal experiences

Several years ago, I organized a media event to highlight the importance of early childhood education. The backdrop was perfect: A lively, colorful daycare center full of giggly toddlers and finger-painted masterpieces. The subject was timely because Congress was considering legislation related to early childhood education funding. A leading elected official would be at the event.

To make the event effective, teachers and parents needed to deliver the critical message—it couldn’t come from the elected official. And that took preparation.

Preparation: Schedules, Stories and Stress

Most people don’t wake up in the morning prepared to speak to a high-ranking elected official or reporter. Here are three ways to prepare your clients with a messaging platform to build trust:

  1. Schedule
    Create a minute-by-minute outline of what your speakers can expect. Who will speak? What order will they speak in? Who else will be in the room? Share it with each participant ahead of time.
  2. Storytelling
    Talk with your speakers on the phone the day before the event to draw out their personal experiences and highlight compelling moments. Ask them for more detail when you sense hesitation. Guide them through emotional moments. Remind them to “just be yourself.”
  3. Stress Management
    Prepare a list of questions a reporter might ask, and chat with your speakers about how they might respond. Rehearsing answers beforehand gives them confidence coming into the event.

The ready-made early childhood education event helped reporters craft stories with multiple quotes, engaging visuals and relevant substance. The result? A front page, above-the-fold photo of the elected official hugging a child who held an American flag. The teachers and parents—the everyday people—made the topic relevant, relatable and far more trusted than a speech from a podium in Congress.

How do you prepare for high-stake events? Tweet your response to @JayRayAdsPR.