Tell it direct from the horse’s mouth

With trust in mainstream media at an all-time low and the public more receptive than ever to news from “someone like me”, the time is ripe for companies to go direct with their stories, writes Sophy Buckley

The Edelman 2017 Trust Barometer makes depressing reading for journalists, CEOs and PRs. It shows that the public’s trust in their output has never been so low nor falling so fast. But between the lines there’s some good news.

The survey separates the world’s population into the informed and the general public. Of the world’s population, 13 per cent are classed as informed – that is to say have a university education and an income in the top quartile of their country, read or watch business news and media several times a week and follow public policy issues. This group has significantly higher trust in public and corporate bodies than the general public – a full 15 percentage points higher.

The survey also found that the public in general trust employees more than corporate leaders, suggesting they could play an important role in communicating corporate messages.

With trust in established media at an all-time low and with falling trust in social media – there is a growing opportunity for companies to talk directly to the public. The survey found that a “person like myself” is now just as credible a source as a technical or academic expert when talking about a company – all on 60 per cent, compared with a CEO on 37 per cent.

This may be depressing for experts, but it underlines that companies and employees have a clear responsibility to allay public fears and communicate honestly on issues of concern such as innovation, immigration, globalisation and automation. It even goes so far as to say: “Business is the last retaining wall for trust.”

That’s good news for our kind of content providers; companies should step up and take control of the story. The audience is receptive and it is time for businesses to reach out to them directly.

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