In whom do we trust?

During Social Media Week, I chaired a debate at The Good Agency with panel made up of new media (Adam Baker of Blottr and Stephen Sidlo of Demotix) and traditional media (Fergus Bell of AP and Jason Mills of ITV)  All use social media as part of their jobs, and we spent much of the session exploring the clash in values and techniques between traditional news gathering and citizen journalism.

Is it more important to get a story out first, or to get it checked? Can you rely on mass opinion (eg twitter) for news? And, most importantly, who do we trust these days for our news stories? With communications coming from anywhere, at ever increasing speed, how do we know who is a credible storyteller? Twitter gets it wrong. But then, so do credible journalists.

In this post mass media age, we’re back to a conversation, not broadcast model (or “back to the coffee house” as The Economist put it). And where news reporting used to be about journalists covering a story from every angle (witness this classic Guardian ad) it’s now about ‘open journalism’ – creating a platform where the public don’t just consume the news, they make it.  As the updated Guardian ad puts it so well:

So where does trust lie? Increasingly, less with organisations, and more with individuals. And, as the audience at our debate fed back, that’s big news for charities and other voluntary-sector organisations.

The Edelman Trust Barometer has been researching and reporting on trust in for 12 years. The report measures attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs and media across 25 countries.  So pretty comprehensive stuff.

This year online and social media took a huge leap in credibility.  Specifically:

  • Trust in online sources (all channels) is up 18%
  • Trust in social media is up 75%

When looking at who were credible as spokespeople, the research also uncovered a significant increase in “People like ourselves” (65% – jumping up 22% to the 3rd spot behind academics and experts). Trust in ‘regular employees’ shot up by 16% to 50%. So is it now about empowering everyone in your organisation to have a voice?

We want to hear from other people. People like us. People we know. Even, as recent research has pointed out, people we don’t know that well. And we’ll increasingly trust their opinions over those of journalists, politicians, experts and, uh, comms professionals from charities, unions and pressure groups.

So how does this affect how you tell your stories?  Are you ready for a step-change in the perceived trustworthiness of your communications?

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