As a PR person, I’m charged with building, enhancing and defending the trust people have in my clients’ businesses. But the numbers are against us. For example, The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer tells us that public trust in business has dropped to 58 percent. And in ING’s 2014 Social Media Impact Survey, half of the journalists who participated said they thought that consumer opinions were more reliable than official statements from organizations. And, most chilling for someone like me who’s spent her life cultivating positive news for her clients, a Gallup poll found that confidence in the media is at an all-time low. Only 19 percent of the respondents had confidence in the news they get from newspapers (FYI it was 51 percent in 1979).
So, where does that leave your business in this highly cynical world? In a position where you must demonstrate your authenticity, transparency and dedication to doing the right thing. And then to talk about it. Proudly. With passion. Did you put out a defective product? Be the first to tell the public about it, what you’re doing to make it right and what you learned from the experience. Were you the victim of a data breach? Who better to be the first to contact your customers than you? Let them know what you know, how you’ll protect them from further harm and what you’re going to change.
Trust is based on actions. No PR person can fix a company that’s not willing to behave in an ethical manner. Business ethics aren’t for the academics and think-tankers. They’re for the real world. And done right, they breed the kind of trust that bankrolls the bottom line.
My thanks to George L. Johnson, APR, Chair of the Public Relations Society of America’s Board of Ethics & Professional Standards (BEPS) who’s article A New Era: The Role of PR Pros in an Era of Declining Trust inspired this post.