Building Consumer Trust: The Post-Truth Society in Public Relations

December 16, 2018


consumer trust in media

As trust in the media declines, the importance of consumer trust is on the rise.

In an era where facts are perceived as an “art form,” consumer trust in governments, businesses, public agencies and the media will continue to deteriorate. Trust in the media is at an all-time low. Results of the Gallup/Knight Foundation Survey on Trust, Media and Democracy show that most Americans believe it’s now harder to determine which news is accurate. They increasingly perceive the media to be biased or influenced by advertisers. In the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, media was ranked as the least-trusted global institution for the first time.

At the same time, experts are regaining credibility in the media. Trust in journalists has risen 12 points, and successful entrepreneurs and technical experts register a credibility level of 50 percent or higher in the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer.

As a society we are in the final stages of mass persuasion and headed into the age of “tribal persuasion,” where there is self-segregation by groups, each with its own beliefs and facts. This is a world where micro-targeting means customized messaging for almost everything, from products to services to policies.

Global futurist Rohit Talwar predicts that by 2023, there will be apps on our televisions and on our mobile devices that will allow consumers to source check, filter, edit and summarize information according to their preferences. Concise messaging will be preferred in the future as automation tools will abbreviate articles and branded content into just a few bullet points. Long-form articles will appear primarily in quality media outlets, which will be few and far between, but could include the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Financial Times, Talwar noted in our conversation.

Talwar predicts that consumers will also be able to rank their friends and family by a “trust rating,” which will allow for content and news articles shared by their “highly trusted” inner circle to display on their social feeds. “Black Mirror,” anyone?

“Distance between consumers and brands will grow unless organizations can prove they are ethical and trustworthy,” Talwar advises.

So, what does this mean for destination communicators and building consumer trust?

The PR Roadmap on the Road to 2023:

  • Maintain consistency in your earned media team in order to foster deeper and more meaningful relationships with journalists. DMOs should start to allocate more financial resources to keep young talent growing and engaged for the long term.
  • Restructure your team of publicists into two specialties: national/brand pitching and niche/regional pitching. This approach will result in more customization of earned media tactics across outlets and campaigns.
  • Discover and cultivate destination spokespersons who can further your destination messaging and appeal to consumer trust.

“The consumer will have access to tools that will source check, filter, edit and summarize articles on their devices.” – Rohit Talwar

Rohit Talwar is an award-winning global futurist, entrepreneur and advisor on business transformation, disruptive strategies and radical innovation.

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Written by Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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