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The Battle for Truth – 2018

Since 2001, Edelman, the world’s leading PR company measured by income, has published a report entitled Trust Barometer. This year, the company has introduced a summary report based on research results from 28 countries, and presented earlier publications in a more generalized  form. The method applied for respondents’ selection implies that the research is representatives of about 85% of the global population.

Diverse, dynamic and rapidly changing, complex and unforeseeable – this is how one might characterize key trends in the Trust Barometer. An analysis of the changes in the Trust Factor shows the full extent of the negative trend, not to mention the 2017 headline: 2017 saw the emergence of a general crisis of trust, one of the key factors of emotional communication, the form and content of relations.

While previously the crisis touched reputational indicators of business, government, influential persons and institutions, today, it seems relatively simple to analyze indicators put down on a single platform. It is interesting to consider if it is possible to foresee such erosion trust, or , whether we could make long-term forecasts and identify the vector of dramatic changes in issues of trust.

While previously the crisis touched reputational indicators of business, government, influential persons and institutions, today, it seems relatively simple to analyze indicators put down on a single platform. It is interesting to consider if it is possible to foresee such erosion trust, or , whether we could make long-term forecasts and identify the vector of dramatic changes in issues of trust.

To be frank, for the first time, I realized the acuity of this problem in 2016. During the process of analyzing reasons for Trump’s victory, and exploring defects in the electoral campaign of the losing party. The reasons are given on the timeline on the photo.

We can compare the institutions that supported Hillary Clinton to negative trends in the 2003, 2005-2007, 2012-2016 Trust Barometers, and the results can be explained easily.

The picture below provides evidence that 7 out of 10 citizens worldwide worry about the growing cascade of fake news, while 63% cannot differentiate material produced by journalists from fake news (see picture N3).

It is also noteworthy that the media is reported as the least trustworthy institution in Trust Barometer over the past years . In 2016, following a slight improvement in the polls, the media confidence index began declining again.

It is interesting that the confidence index has increased in relation to experts in the technical and financial sectors, as well as members of academia and entrepreneurs. In this environment, the confidence index in relation to “People Like Me” has fallen to a historic low.

The confidence index in relation to employers has changed in a positive direction, and since 2016 this trend has irreversibly grown in a majority of the market.

Besides statistical indicators, the Trust Barometer also determines key indicators  of the confidence mandate.

In the TOP 3 directions media, NGO, government and business  confidence mandates are repeated. For example, the protection of privacy is the focusof media and business, care for the poor –the focus of NGO and government, the promotion of economic development is the business of the government and business sector.

Loss of Trust – Comparison to the Previous Year

  • Trust in NGOs has declined in 14 countries out of 28.
  • Trust in business has risen in 14 countries out of 28;
  • Trust in government has risen in 16 countries out of 28, but has not risen to the level of 50% of the market in 21 countries.
  • Trust has declined in 10 sectors out of of 15.

Loss of trust in brands is especially noticeable in the USA.

Guideline for battle for truth

Edelman calls the 2018 research report the struggle for truth. Despite a loss of trust, and despite the fact that trust has not  been regained,, the respondents still retain hope that it is possible to restore trust and to struggle for truth,  and that the struggle against fake news can bring similar results.

How should we conduct ourselves in this situation? How can we restore trust?

The common answer is that we should, first of all, consider the situation.

After a long or brief period of considering it, the solution will be found: close and continuous communication with the target audience ,rewarding their expectations and the proper employment of their experience.

We start with organize communication, and then we continue with proper communication.

  1. Each message should be made with its addressee in mind.

Messages should be specialized for the target audience by using instruments focused on them. Universal messages have become obsolete.

Strategic and actionable plans should be developed for each audience, in which a central role should be given to growing a reputation and audience engagement.

  1. None of the Messages should be left unanswered.

Monitoring social media and other channels should become part of a feedback system as the best mechanism for risk prevention, the alleviation of their  impact and avoiding crisis situations. Any overlooking of these rules may become grounds for repeated crisis situations.

As for fake news, the analysis of where and how similar news items are produced, and the comparison of mechanisms for struggling against them,  evidently show that organizations with maximal transparency and close communication with society have more efficient approaches and instruments for struggling against fake news compared to other organizations. Therefore, publicity, timely reaction. and open access to information are the excellent weapons against fake news.

  1. Each message should have an author and speaker

This speaker should be well-known and trusted. Training the speakers, equipping them with appropriate knowledge and skills, should become part of the organization’s strategic plan.

In this epoch of universal distrust, when people do not believe in institutions, when the quality of confidence in them declines year on year, society continues to trust people.

A shapeless and dry collective or unsigned statements (without individual speakers) are less trustworthy.

People like and trust organizations with a humanistic reputation. They like their humanistic stories, humanistic stories of employees, demonstrations of actions of leaders, and details of their interesting lives. These aspects add to the humanistic reputation of the organization, and bring them in sync with consumers, enhance communications, and bring an end to distrust.

  1. Apply to Customers in Order to Develop Messages and Strengthening Confidence

You need supporters, partners and allies in your struggle for truth.

All forms of struggle require strategy and tactics. It is impossible to gain victory alone in a struggle. Soldiers of truth should have prepared with them mighty allies, as well.

In your struggle for truth, ally with those customers who you want to have higher confidence in you. Involve them in maneuvers, jointly plan tactics against the enemy (distrust), attack from the wings and center in your plan, determine targets for artillery and aviation strikes, and break down castles of distrust through precise, targeted attacks.

Do not forget that the customer is a commander in your struggle for gaining trust, and you are only an executing their strategic plan.

Fight for trust, and get the most precious thing – trust!

Soso Galumashviili