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Trust Barometer says fake news is hurting your business’ reputation

TV newsman Walter Cronkite was known as The Most Trusted Man in America. If he told you something on the six o’clock news, you knew it was 100% true and reliable.

Is there anyone on TV now who has earned that label? How about in newspaper publishing or in the online world? How about on Facebook? Think, that’s going a bit too far? Not so, says the American public.

According to the new 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, Americans include search engines, social platforms and even influencers to be part of “the media” and their trust in said “media” is on the decline.

One big issue is the spreading of fake news. 7 out of 10 people surveyed thought that the spread of false information could be harmful. More than half said they think that the major news outlets – the ones we used to trust unconditionally – are now more concerned about pushing their own agenda and attracting a larger audience than accurately reporting the news. 65% also thought that news outlets were willing to sacrifice accuracy in order to be the first with breaking news.

To make matters worse, 60% said they have a hard time figuring out if a news story was produced by a legitimate news agency and they had no method of gauging fact from speculation.

Even so, trust in individual journalists rose 5% in the last year, but trust in platforms (including social media) dipped to a near all-time low. This is rough because 65% of people said they get their news from social media feeds and news aggregators such as the ones you see when you open a new browser page.

You know what I get when I open a new tab? Half a dozen stories about the Olympics, several stories about a tragedy that occurred earlier today, and sandwiched in between is a story called “Here’s why guys are obsessed with this underwear”.  And they wonder why people don’t trust the media anymore.

If you think your business is in the clear because it’s not a media company, don’t sigh with relief just yet.

Edelman asked the respondents if there were consequences to this lack of trust in the media.

56% said that this lack of trust in media has led to a loss of trust in the government leaders. 42% said they’re left wondering which companies or brands they should trust.

Think about this scenario:

Yadda Yadda news writes a story about safety issue inside The Doda Doda Company. No problem, you give your business to Doda’s competitor. Done deal. Until you find out that the competitor who got your business and Yadda Yadda news are owned by the same parent company. Now do you believe their story?

Or this:

A celebrity influencer posts an Instagram saying pink lipstick causes cancer. Totally, untrue of course, but you can bet that sales of pink lipstick are going to drop because better safe than sorry.

How do you combat consumer mistrust? Start with the right spokesperson.

The Edelman survey shows that Technical Experts are the most trusted speakers, followed closely by Academic Experts. If you’re an entrepreneur – good for you. People trust a successful entrepreneur more than they trust the CEO of a large company.  Whatever you do, don’t ask a Government Employee to speak on your behalf, because they’re the least trusted of all.

Even though we’re going through a rough patch, there were only two kinds of people who were less trustworthy in 2018 than they were in 2017. The first are “employees”. I guess consumers worry that employees will lie to keep their jobs or increase their bonuses (We’re talking to you, Wells Fargo!)

The only entity that lost ground in 2018 is the average Joe. That’s right, fewer people said they trust the word of a “person like yourself”. And that’s very sad.

Next step is to prove to the public that you’re worthy of their trust. In the US, that means safeguarding privacy, investing in consumer safety, driving economic prosperity and being an innovator in your field.

Fake news and skewed reporting aren’t going away anytime soon. The best you can do to combat it is making sure that everything you’re putting out is honest, fact-checked, and transparent. That way, if your industry does come under attack, your customers will be willing to listen to your side of the story before deciding what’s true and what’s false.