The New Trust Order: Search, Influence and Ethics

There are few positives from Edelman’s new Trust Barometer, but our belief in what we find in Search is on the rise. Couple this with other recent data on the trustworthiness of influencers and ethical brands you can see the emerging trust challenges for PR.

Trust is the currency of the Internet. That’s how I open most of my speeches on the topic of influence.

But as Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer uncovers, trust is in short supply.

While ‘Traditional Media’ continues to slump in public perception, trust in Search Engines has risen four years in a row.

This is a great endorsement for what Google, Bing and others have been doing in terms of presenting back useful information to the user, but it presents a challenge for PR in terms of:

  1. how to help their clients appear high on search engines for relevant terms (inform and persuade)
  2. what users find when they search specifically for those clients (brand reputation)

 

Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

Yet the number of PR agencies offering SEO services has dropped by a fifth (20%) in the last four years. This despite the fact that over that same period Google’s search algorithm has made PR skills even more important than ever in order to improve ranking.

Gaining Influence

What Edelman’s findings also show is a slight check on the growth of trust in online-only media. This had been enjoying strong growth, and I would still rate online media as trusted, especially the blogosphere.

If we look at Bloglovin’s extensive survey on the power of influencers from late last year, they find that influencers have inspired six in ten digitally-savvy women to use a new product, and 55% of the same demographic buy products are seeing them in an influencer’s sponsored post.

That’s a pretty good sign of trust backed up with a business objective action: sales. Nearly half of those women (45%) will follow a brand an influencer has worked with.

A third key area for building trust is around ethical brands. I am loath to use the term ‘Millennials’, but there seems to be no avoiding it, and this demographic is definitely turned on by ethical brands, as Deloitte’s study shows.

In short, PR has its work cut out in gaining public trust of brands via Owned Media and Earned “Traditional” Media, but it can win by encouraging its clients to become ethical brands, work with influencers and micro-influencers, and work on clients’ search reputations.

What did you make of Edelman’s Trust Barometer findings and its implications for PR?

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