Is public trust exhausted? Claremont, Lambie-Nairn and Mark Borkowski discuss the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2015, there has been a decline in public trust in brands, government, charity and non-governmental organisations, for a variety of reasons, including the Sony Pictures hack and the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.

The study found that trust in institutions had dropped to the level of the recession in 2009.

In response, The Drum spoke with PR and branding experts to discuss how marketers can help to regain that trust.

Simon Francis, director at Claremont, said that to build trust, marketers must be ethical and engaging in their marketing. “To do this, businesses must understand that policies like apprenticeship recruitment, community engagement and corporate social responsibility are a must for PR and social media teams,” he remarked.

“Just as importantly, better engagement is also vital. Honesty, dialogue and organisation-wide social media literacy will all help ensure trust among key audiences. Both of these points means putting real life stories and consumers at the heart of marketing. The Trust Barometer shows that the most consistently trusted spokespeople are ‘people like yourself’.

“So if organisations want to rebuild trust, the recipe is simple: as well as being ethical and engaging, marketers need to make sure communications is rooted in real life.”

PR agent and author Mark Borkowski said the report could be the “final warning” to brands and institutions to face up to the lack of trust. “The 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an alarming evaporation of trust across all institutions, reaching the lows of the Great Recession in 2009. Je suis surprise. Perhaps this is the final warning to wake institutions to engage with anti-trust, which is something that has been ignored.

“Traditional methodologies are no longer fit for purpose and the public trust is exhausted. Degradation of public trust in charities, brands, government and NGOs, prove there has to be positive determination to try and regain the lost grip. PR can no longer shape perceptions about a brand to the same extent because a brand is now a conversation happening as much outside institutions walls as within them, so its individual relationships that count – the world demands a concession to conversational instinct.

“That said, institutions should avoid the tendency to use their increased social reach to try to apply values with slick or emotional content to touch opinion. Behaviour is on public display so new ways to rebuild engagement and interaction is an imperative.”

By contrast, Jim Prior, chief executive of Lambie-Nairn, argued that the ability to measure trust is ambiguous and as such any results should be taken with a pinch of salt. “The question is whether or not you trust the Edelman Trust Barometer. Measuring trust is such a multifaceted and yet vague thing – like attempting to measure love – and, in my opinion, the integrity of any conclusions drawn has to be questionable at best.”

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