The #1 way PR pros can build trust in a time of "fake news"

Jun 13, 2017
The #1 way PR pros can build trust in a time of "fake news"

Since President Donald Trump uttered the words “fake news” to CNN’s Jim Acosta in January, we have been operating in a time when trust in the media is low. 

Whether print or electronic, the media is under a large microscope.

It’s not just because of Mr. Trump’s declaration however; the “fake news” statement only hammered home what has evolved over time. In fact, according to Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer, trust in the news media worldwide is at an all-time low.

Sadly, the media isn’t the only entity suffering from a lack of trust by the public.

The credibility of leaders in business are dangerously low. Edelman’s report states that CEO credibility has also hit an all-time low of 37 percent.

Why has trust in leadership and in the media plummeted to this point?

Collectively, people have many outlets to get their information. There’s Facebook and Twitter, liberal and conservative websites, as well as blogs and message boards. These have all contributed to readers and viewers wondering what is true or just believing a post because someone is verified.

So, what can public relations professionals do to combat the belief that their clients or bosses are trustworthy? It’s actually very simple.

Be Honest.

Sure, there will be those that say it’s virtually impossible to be honest in today’s world where news and information come at you at warp speed.

I say those people are dead wrong.

Now, this does not mean you open up the floodgates and divulge every single bit of detail on a company. What you should be doing is providing opportunities for open and honest communications. During a crisis, don’t hide behind the curtain. Show your publics, in words and actions, that you are putting their well-being above the bottom line.

PR needs to also focus on relationships, both building them and fostering them.

Many pros have developed relationships with the media and other pros. Those relationships are solidified over time because of trust. To breed trust, it is integral to build relationships internally and externally.

Think for a moment about the large building. It starts with a foundation. From there, steel is added upward and then, finally, glass and drywall to complete it. If you do not have a foundation, the building is nothing.

The same goes for relationships. With no foundation of trust, a leader can not lead. PR can help a CEO’s personality come to life by stressing the importance of the human element. A blog can’t do that; a podcast or video interview can.

Lastly, we can never think for a moment that it is ok to hide the truth. If you are part of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), you adhere to the Code of Ethics. The moment you discard your ethics, you will being to lose any trust you’ve built over time. Both your own and the people you represent. Once you are labeled as dishonest, it’s pretty hard for anyone -- a fellow pro or the media – to trust you again.

Trust should never be next to the word “failing” or “losing.” To make certain trust is maintained, PR pros need to consider the alternatives.

There is nothing fake about that news.

Jason Mollica is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. He combines knowledge of the broadcast news industry, traditional public relations expertise and today’s new and innovative social media tools.

Photo via Pixabay

About the author

Prof. Lecturer @AU_SOC. Digital strategist, speaker, Branding Champion; proud husband, dad. @TempleUniv, @GradPurdue alum. Truth, Ethics, & Transparency.

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