How PR can help restore public trust in the media

May 5, 2017

According to a late 2016 Gallup poll, only 32% of respondents had a “great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.” This statistic is unsurprising at best, given the rise of “fake news” permeating today’s headlines and social media feeds.

CNN’s Brian Stelter gave a heartfelt plea after the election on the importance of standing up for truth. His plea was aimed at journalists, but can easily apply to PR professionals as well. He said “…Don’t tell half-truths, don’t shade the truth. Don’t fear the truth. And then we can focus on the other ‘t’ word – trust.”

For PR professionals, the fact that consumers are becoming more splintered, skeptical and confused about which sources to trust is concerning. After all, the media is the main lifeline of our work. Newspapers, nightly newscasts, radio shows and numerous other mediums are our partners in storytelling. This begs the question, how can we, as communications specialists, thrive in the changing landscape?

  • Know which outlets are reputable and which are not. There’s a long list of “fake news” sites, but understanding what makes an outlet trustworthy in the first place is an important step in combating fake news. Does the outlet employ fact checkers? Are the stories without a clear and obvious bias? Are they written by a real person? Is the headline simply click bait? While some clients may see value in having a story placed in a buzzy online site that gets millions of monthly views, being associated with a notoriously dishonest outlet will ultimately hurt reputations. Quality and respect is always more important than quantity or views.
  • Supply journalists with only accurate, real information. It’s also imperative to ensure the pitches and releases we send can be verified against scrupulous fact checkers and that our claims and promises hold tight under scrutiny. The reputations of both the media and the PR industry depend on our trustworthiness.
  • Expand PR capabilities. With the splintering of audiences and trust, media relations should not be the be all, end all for communications professionals. If traditional media relations is your bread and butter, it may be time to consider expanding your capabilities and skills to adapt to the changing landscape. PR campaigns can and should (in most cases) span digital and social media, event marketing, and other emerging trends.

As the media industry is facing an uncertain future, PR professionals must do all we can to ensure media’s longevity and reputation as a trustworthy source of (real) facts. Let’s do our part.

-Holly

 

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