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Why trust must lie at the heart of business communication

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 25th January 2012

Yesterday Edelman released its annual Trust Barometer. The study analyses the amount of trust we have in governments, NGOs, businesses and the media.

Social media on the up, but beware of the bandwagon

You’ve probably already seen an onslaught of articles picking up on the 75% increase in trust of social media that was one of the headline findings of the report. This is despite recent controversies over fake social media accounts and the increasing trend of fake Twitter rumours.

The appeal of jumping on yet another social media bandwagon is obvious, but social media still only scores a relatively low 14% compared to traditional media (32%) and multiple online sources (26%) in the study.

So let’s just keep this in perspective.

Trust in business plummeting; media on the rise

The alarm bells should be ringing for businesses though. The Barometer paints a very clear picture of the increasingly complex and varied world of communication in which we now live.

It’s fascinating to see that amongst governments, NGOs, businesses and the media, only the latter has gained in trust amongst ‘informed publics’ in the last 12 months. It’s a harsh reflection on perceived transparency amongst businesses, with the media now coming out for the first time as equally as trustworthy. And this (albeit at a global level) is despite issues such as phone-hacking that have hit in the last year.

Say it and say it again

Another point that struck me as particularly interesting for the PR community is that 63% said they need to hear things three to five times before believing it. The idea of saying something as often and in as many ways as possible is nothing new but, with the plurality of media now at our disposal, is one that has fresh impetus these days. Integration of messages across all channels is therefore of prime importance.

However, when combined with the need to hear things more than once before believing it, the importance of integration and use of every communication channel still seems to be key.

In the tech PR world, trust lies at the heart of everything we do. But at the end of the day, it is not the channels that matter but the way companies act and communicate in general. Putting honesty and transparency at the heart of tech PR campaigns is the best advice and will improve the standing of businesses in this digital age.

Yesterday I spoke to Econsultancy about some of these issues and you can see the write up here.

The study includes 25,000 respondents, with 5,600 ‘informed publics’ in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) across 25 countries. The UK survey includes 1,000 adults aged over 18 and 200 ‘informed publics’.

Danny Whatmough