Gaining and maintaining consumer trust is the goal of every PR professional. Consumer trust is invaluable to brands. However, recent data suggests consumers are growing more and more distrusting of traditional media. Additionally, with the spread of ‘fake news’, consumers are more suspicious than ever.
In this very confusing media environment, PR professionals face hurdles when it comes to earning trust through media efforts. So, how do we navigate this maze in a world where trust on a downward spiral.
With declining consumer trust, it’s more important than ever to get the facts right. Jono Smith, a brand communications & digital strategy expert at Make-A-Wish America, commented on the need to be extra careful. “The only change I’ve observed is pressure to be extra vigilant that our spokespeople and surrogates are equipped with very specific talking points to ensure they are being factual & not engaging in any hyperbole,” said Smith.
Making sure the facts are straight and delivered to the public on time are key. It is also important to be more careful to who you are pitching to. Make sure the reporters, journalists, bloggers or influencers you engage are have a good reputation and credible.
The downturn in media relations is just one of the many challenges faced by PR professionals. As we all know, it’s a very interesting and ever-changing industry. PR has been vigilant through all the changes in its lifetime and will remain so. So, it’s necessary to keep this in mind when tackling the issue of declining consumer trust.
Toni Harrison from Etched Communications says, “It is vital for communications professionals to clearly define the value, purpose and potential impact of traditional media coverage upfront. With the rise in fake news, it’s understandable that many broadly place mistrust in all media. However, credible outlets that adhere to ethical journalism standards are out there and can be trusted. Explaining the difference between these outlets and uncredible ones may make all the difference. Perhaps if your client or spokesperson still feels distrust toward the outlet, build trust in the reporter. (e.g. “You may not trust this outlet, but check out this reporter’s past coverage. He/she is knowledgeable and will present balanced coverage.”)”
While the publicity PR model isn’t what consumers are looking for, PR has a lot to offer in terms of building brand influence, credibility, and relevancy. The press still remains influential in building a brand. While a portion of the public does distrust the media, people can’t run away from the media and it plays a big role in how people see brands. Therefore, one key takeaway is that media distrust should not mean complete disengagement from the media.
Some people believe there isn’t an issue with media trust, citing digital media as an effective tool that provides tangible benefits. Christopher Penn, author of Marketing Blue Belt, says, “The problem isn’t earned media per se – the problem is that companies in general and many PR professionals still struggle with the basics of analytics and measuring the impact of their work. With appropriate measure, the value of PR continues to speak for itself.”