How communicators are key to combating global misinformation, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer

Who do people trust to tell the truth?

Amanda Ponzar is the chief communications & strategy officer at CHC: Creating Healthier Communities. Connect with her on LinkedIn. 

The global Edelman Trust Barometer, unveiled last month at Davos,  remains a powerful trend indicator in its 24th year. With trust still at record lows and mis and disinformation abounding, communicators are critically important in 2024, both internally and externally.

Although 2024 is the year of “innovation in peril” according to Edelman, we’re still dealing with ongoing distrust, polarization, and declining authority figures. Much of the societal “progress” over the past few years has been met with equal “pushback,” whether on DEI, vaccinations, green energy, AI and ChatGPT or other issues. Many people don’t trust the systems.

Interestingly, nearly half of the world’s population  (49%) will participate in elections this year. This will only intensify misinformation and disinformation campaigns, increasing worldwide destabilization.

According to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer, more than 60% of respondents worry that “establishment leaders” like government, business, and media leaders are “purposely trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.” This is a breakdown of traditional institutions and is dangerous for democracy and our cohesion as a country.

Who do people trust to tell the truth? “Someone like me.” People trust their peers as much as scientists –74% for both. This trend has been steady for a few years, indicating most people trust those closest to them, such as coworkers and neighbors, as much as (or more than) any expert.

Source: Edelman


And where do people get their information? The top source (59%) is online searches.

Lastly, the trust barometer showed listening is a top three trust-building action for every sector – government, business, nonprofit, media. People want to feel heard, so communication should be a two-way conversation, not mass marketing blasts.

What this means for communicators:

  • Focus on both internal and external communication as your employees need to know your news just as much as the general public or your other target audiences.
  • Listen carefully to your stakeholders, including internal employee resource groups, and whenever possible, let them know how you’re responding to their insights.
  • Be careful with language. Use language thoughtfully to de-escalate and unify whenever possible. Consider neutral terms versus language that may be provocative or controversial or may favor a certain political viewpoint—unless your brand wants to go headfirst into the fray.
  • Go out of your way to create quality, factual content. This can help combat rampant misinformation and general public distrust – and will build your organization’s reputation. Try to tone down the spin and green, pink, or other washing whenever possible. Want to increase trust? Be a trusted source.
  • Leverage employees as your top brand ambassadors to share positive news and updates about your organization. On average, people will trust your employees more — and share the content more. Employee social profiles see 10X more followers than branded accounts, and 8X the engagement.
  • One way to do this is create a content hub and incentivize employees to post content. FedEx does this with their “Social Hub.”
  • Continue to partner with key journalists, but as more layoffs continue to occur in the media industry, be ready to use all available channels to get the word out.
  • Use your owned channels in the PESO (paid, earned, shared, owned) model. Share SEO-friendly content on your channels such as your website since online searches are the top way people get information—and you want them to find yours.
  • Work with trusted influencers. Consider not just a famous celebrity influencer or nationally known scientist but also micro-influencers like a community leader.

Check out the 2024 global Edelman Trust Barometer here.

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