Trust: Why traditional news media is more powerful than ever

“There is no love without trust.” It’s one of those obvious statements that you probably just nodded your head to. Yet it’s interesting to note that the source is scientific research in Nature. But this fundamental truth begs the question: if love depends on trust, who is it that we really trust? And how can brands join that list of those who are truly trusted?

We trust our family and friends. We trust the media. Oddly we also trust celebrities.

Who we trust is important for brands. We’ve known this for some time. That’s why as communicators and marketers, media relations have been a core part of our business for decades. Global news media consolidation has meant our pool of journalists has shrunk and competition for their attention is fierce. It is not a coincidence that the rise of influencers has coincided with the decline in journalism. Competition for eyeballs and attention spans have created our current reality.

Here is the new reality. As the number of journalists declines there is now a concentration of trust in a few. The influence of these few has grown and continues to grow.

Ray Day’s recent piece captures this sentiment (Ray Day was the head of communications at Ford and is now the Chief Communications Officer at IBM). He doesn’t discount the impact of branded content and new means of distribution. What he does say is that journalists are still a trusted source and we can’t forget it. Their impact is now greater than ever because our news media is more concentrated than ever.

It’s all about trust and it’s all about the mix. Social algorithms are adjusting for more engagement with our friends and family because we trust them. Social influencers’ importance has grown and continues to grow because we’re inspired by them and trust them. “Traditional” news media have always provided a trusted source for brands to share their stories. I think we can discount the accusations of fake news because they are often just reactions to politically inconvenient news.

Remember: there is no love without trust. For brands to establish and maintain love this means building trust. Building trust today relies on a mix of approaches. As communicators and marketers, we need to use all parts of the mix, especially “traditional” media. We can’t allow our impression of their so-called “decline” to cloud the truth: they are more powerful than ever. Do yourself a favour and read Ray’s article—he hits the nail on the head.