The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer has hit the headlines, with figures showing trust in the media has fallen below 50% in 22 of the 28 countries surveyed.
“A remarkable 63% of the 33,000 respondents to Edelman’s 18th annual global survey said they no longer knew how to tell good journalism from rumour or falsehoods, and 59% said it was becoming harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organisation. And almost 70% were worried about fake news and false information being used as a weapon; being a tool, for instance, to influence or disrupt national elections.” (Source: The Holmes Report)
Fake news – a term we’ve all come to know and love despise – was an interesting reading point, with nearly seven in 10 people worried about false information or fake news being used as a weapon. This is a concerning figure, the term weapon provoking strong connotations, and something the media as an industry must crack down on, hard.
It appears some countries are already taking steps to do this; Germany passing a law that fines social media companies for failing to remove fake news, and Singapore announcing plans for the introduction of similar laws to combat fake news. And of course, social media platforms are taking steps to verify sources and weed out false information and clickbait content.
But what does this mean for public relations? How can practitioners ensure that audiences are reading and believing – and more importantly, acting upon – their own and their client’s messages?
Interestingly, those surveyed defined media as both the content and the platforms, which puts much of the research info context.
This research may not be all doom and gloom for PRs. Figures show journalist’s voices are growing in credibility, meaning the outlets that practitioners work with are becoming more trusted. 20 of 28 countries saw a double-digit increase in the credibility of journalists. As The Holmes Report explained: “The eight-point global gap between journalism (59%) and platforms (51%) as a trusted source for news and information is the largest disparity in seven years, and in some markets the difference is even higher.”
As it appears that the platforms are more of an issue for consumers than the journalists, PR practitioners should use this to their advantage. Those already essential strong relationships with key industry journalists will become all the more important. PRs need to recognise that and continue to respect journalists as the voice of authority, something that is so desperately needed in today’s media landscape. It seems consumers are becoming smart and filtering out the content and the platforms that are less credible, meaning quality content will still be seen, and is perhaps more likely to be.
With so many not knowing how to tell good journalism from fake news, making it hard to determine if the source is credible, this could also present an opportunity for PR. Clearly, consumers are looking for someone to trust, therefore, by placing a client as a thought-leader and generating quality, reliable content, backed up by research, it will put them ahead of any competitors doing otherwise.
Yet the channels we use to reach these people will have to change. 65% of respondents said they receive news through social media feeds, search or news applications. But 50% were disengaged with news, consuming it less than weekly. So how do we reach those who have lost all trust and have removed themselves from media almost entirely? Again, this presents an opportunity to find creative solutions that demonstrate expertise, credibility and trust.
I’ve purposely avoided any of the political related statistics from the report in this, as it could take up another blog post or two entirely, but I think it’s important to note in this overview that 56% do not know which politicians to trust. That sounds like an issue that media organisations and politicians need to address.
Read the full 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer here.