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  • Writer's pictureLaura Merritt

Public relations: Building trust

Building and maintaining trust is something public relations professionals have been charged with since beginning of PR. Once lost, it is extremely difficult to regain. And this year, rebuilding trust could be PR’s biggest challenge. Trust in PR, certainly, but also rebuilding trust for client brands, many of which lost a lot of consumer trust during the pandemic. With trust in institutions declining across the board, PR pros need to help their organizations be more transparent and truthful with their audiences. The question is how do we do that, especially in the volatile environment we're in now?

Agility PR Solutions recently hosted a webinar on PR trends in 2022, providing excellent insights into the issue of trust as well as the current state of public relations in general and where we are headed.

Trust has always been at the heart of what we do as PR professionals and is something we, hopefully, strive for that every day. People are much less trusting than before, particularly of the media. In addition, trust in political organizations has gone down. At the same time, trust in corporations and employers appear to be rising. However, there remains a lot of work to do to build, maintain and protect that trust. It boils down to walking the walk, showing up consistently and remaining visible online and on social media. Because if you go quiet or disappear from your audience, your organization can suffer. The onus to rebuild and protect trust falls squarely on PR.

How do you build trust?

Communication, transparency, consistency and timeliness are key, especially during times of change, to building (or rebuilding) trust. Communicating with your audience frequently in short, relevant and targeted messages can be much more meaningful and impactful than long stretches of silence followed by a mountain of information unloaded in one communication. In addition, one of the biggest challenges communicators face today is ensuring empathy and compassion in leadership messaging. Too many times, leaders display a serious lack of empathy for their employees in internal communications. As we’ve seen on several occasions, these internal communications can be leaked to the public, makes headlines that lead to public outrage. Unfortunately, once that occurs, it falls on the PR professional to clean up the mess.

Media distrust

Media distrust is a fundamental problem, with people more skeptical than ever before. This is the media’s problem though, so why should PR pros care? Actually, PR is also impacted as more journalists, working hard to fight against misinformation and fake news, are avoiding sources who want to speak anonymously or “off the record,” which is seen as a way to deflect accountability. Sharing misinformation (or disinformation) from an anonymous source can really undermine the credibility of a media outlet. There may be a time and a place to go on background and off the record if you have a legitimate reason, but it has become all too common and is making it harder for journalists to do their jobs.

Just as trust in the media didn’t disappear overnight, it’s not going to return overnight. However, PR pros can help by making sure our leaders or spokespersons are ready to answer the questions—even the tough ones—and be transparent. Going off the record or speaking anonymously shouldn't be the default.

Trust in traditional media also impacts social media. We will address social media—its opportunities and challenges—in part two of this series.

How can we help you?

AOE's expertise in public relations, social media, branding and communications is proven. Let’s chat about your strategy, key messages and tactics today!



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