Some say that public relations is the business of building trust. We see its impact being wider, although it is fair to say that building trusted relationships with customers, prospects, investors, employees and other stakeholders remains a major objective for many organisations we work with.
Good public relations can help organisations become more trusted by highlighting, demonstrating and endorsing the positive behaviour and characteristics known to influence opinion with those they wish to engage.
Emphasizing positive aspects in areas such as financial performance, business leadership and the workplace environment can quickly start to have an impact, provided those characteristics exist in the first place and can be delivered as part of a credible company narrative.
Because while the internet provides a platform for satisfied stakeholders to share their positive experiences and publicly endorse your narrative, it also allows the disengaged to let the world know if you don’t live up to it.
Negative comments about your brand could live forever on the internet, so address them promptly and appropriately, and make sure you are winning the battle for online attention by providing compelling evidence of your positive attributes.
Where firms focus their communication efforts can also make a difference. Research from Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm, shows that search engines are the most trusted sources of information (65%) and the first port of call for people wanting general business information or looking for breaking business news.
65% of Edelman’s respondents also claimed to trust the traditional media, with TV and newspapers not far behind online search as the first source for breaking business news. Online search engines were by far the most popular medium of choice for people seeking to validate business information and breaking news.
Social media and owned media remain slightly less trusted (with 47% and 45% respectively), but the dominance of online search as a trusted source and first point of contact for news and information reveals the huge opportunity for brands that can tell good stories across the right mix of traditional, online and social media.
Edelman's annual Trust Barometer is relevant for businesses and budgets of all sizes.
The findings show that firms wishing to build more trusted relationships with stakeholders must build communication campaigns around the reality that search is driving how people source news and information today.
Traditional media remains important due to its reach, the trust people place in expert journalists and the prominence major outlets tend to get in the search rankings, but there are also many opportunities for brands to self-publish their own news and views, and engage with expert bloggers and social media communities to help tell them.
The same positive stories can often be shared in many different ways, with the cost of documenting and presenting them often justified by the far wider reach and impact that can be realised by engaging with your audiences across traditional, online and social media.
Done well such integrated communication campaigns can help build trust, reach new potential partners and boost search ranking performance, while establishing a convincing body of evidence for those looking for you online.