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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Communicating in the age of mistrust

Perhaps the fact that organizations like Edleman’s looks at and measures trust is only a small indication of a bigger issue – people no longer trust.

In the age of social media there are many ways for people to unite over a cause and to share information – right or wrong.  Chances are however, that if you or I tell a friend something that we have learned, they will believe you or me before they will believe the corporate world, politicians or big industry in general.

In listening to the many commentaries today on the anniversary of 9/11 it is clear that people have many theories as to what happened that day and afterwards.  Knowing who to believe however comes down to who we trust.  In my opinion, social media has played a big role in our evolution of disbelief.  For those of who communicate or execute marketing strategies for a living, this is a tremendous challenge.  We have to build trust with our stakeholders, communities and customers.  

Building trust however is difficult when you learn about companies that hire people to spread positive word of mouth messages on social networking sites.  The term wombagging has evolved out of this very practice.  According to Basil Phillips although there are a number of wombagging methods, most of them involve some degree of dishonesty.

As someone who has been in the communications and marketing industry for nearly 20 years, the challenge to build and maintain trust is more of a challenge than ever.  Having an authentic voice without spin may be the goal, but even when this is executed to perfection, there will be those that refuse to trust and refuse to believe.  What impact will they have on the rest of your audience?