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How to navigate the crisis of trust in media

From disappearing budgets to furloughed journalists, 2020 has provided no shortage of difficulties for PR professionals. But one challenge is more fundamental and enduring than all; communicators are facing a crisis of trust.

Trust is ephemeral and the fact that people are questioning their sources of information is not new. The rise of populism typified by Brexit and Trump has fuelled the debate over what is ‘real’ or ‘fake’ news for the past four years. This year, Covid-19 has intensified public concerns about misinformation at a time when the need for knowledge and guidance has never been more acute.

This year’s Dimension 2020 report by Kantar reveals the media channels people trust most, the sources which shape opinion and how PR professionals can protect and build trust for their clients.

The trust gap

In order to effectively communicate with their audience, brands need to know that the news and information they share is believed and valued.

Kantar asked consumers how much they trust each media channel for news and information sharing and analysed the findings to calculate a trust score for each channel. Print and broadcast media are most highly trusted, with company websites also scoring well, although every channel was distrusted by at least 10% of respondents. Social media came out worst, suffering from a trust deficit across the total sample.

News & information - The trust gap in %

It’s a different story by age. Consumers aged 18 to 34 tend to trust their own closed network more than external sources for news and information.

News & information - The trust gap by age in %

Trust is a vital consideration for those safeguarding a brand’s reputation. PR professionals can use these insights to create flexible communications plans which maximise ROI by targeting the most trusted platforms for earned media opportunities and varying their approach by demographic.

What influences consumer trust?

The research revealed that in the UK, the news organisation publishing a story is a greater source of trust for connected consumers than either the journalist writing it or the person sharing it. Big names like the BBC, still carry a high degree of credibility in consumers’ eyes.

What influences trust in news stories

On the other hand, consumers have significant misgivings towards newer communication channels such as social media influencers, with 25% feeling strongly that such posts should be labelled in some way. Clearly the credibility of influencers suffers from a perceived lack of transparency about whether their actions are driven by a pay cheque or choice.

This data provides insight for PR professionals seeking to help their clients navigate the trust crisis when it comes to both earned and paid for media. In a world of increasingly knowledgeable and cynical consumers, PR teams have a vital role to play in ensuring brands win the trust of their audience through well-informed, flexible strategies which prioritise transparent communication, conducted through the most appropriate channels.

Methodology: Kantar interviewed 8,002 connected consumers in eight markets (Argentina, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Spain, the UK and the US: 1,000 respondents in each). Interviews of connected adults were conducted online using the CAWI (computer aided web interviewing) technique by the Profiles Division between 11 November and 4 December 2019.

Written by Petra Masinova, global director, reputation intelligence, Kantar, media division

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