From fake news being paraded as facts online, to troll accounts and manipulated videos, social media and the internet have helped give rise to the age of misinformation.
While social media has truly revolutionised the way we connect with others and share content, this has also allowed unverified facts to emerge, and has provided extreme voices a platform to fabricate stories. And now, many people are listening––according to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of adults receive their news on a mobile device, with 53 percent getting them from social media.
One important thing to note is that this is not an overnight phenomenon––trust in institutions and the mainstream media has been eroding for a while now, as alternative outlets become increasingly popular. Social media has also further shaped this behaviour by creating algorithms that further curate your feed based on your previous likes, shares, and comments. This, alongside feeding into increasing skepticism over mainstream outlets, also enables audiences to follow their preferred channels and feed into their confirmation bias, even as these channels purvey false information.
The current landscape is an uphill climb for the public relations industry. That said, PR agencies and practitioners have an enormous opportunity to help clients engage their audiences genuinely and effectively. As consumers become more socially conscious of businesses and their own purchases, PR teams can help dispel the public’s worries by helping these brands become forces for good. Here are the ways how public relations can help build brand trust amidst misinformation.
PR can help brands show support for consumer interests, instead of their own
The pandemic and lockdowns disrupted daily living as people feared for their health and economic safety. With jobs on the line and the possibility of contracting the virus on people’s minds, consumers expect brands to acknowledge and understand the events that impact the community. For brands, this means their communication efforts must be driven by purpose and value, aside from simply engaging their users in a creative way. Brands must focus on relevant and empathetic messaging that shows they understand consumers’ plights during these times.
Verizon Media’s Omnibus study reveals that 62% expect brands to make a positive impact on society during times of uncertainty or social unrest, while 70% are more likely to purchase and engage with brands if their values align. This survey shows that consumers want transparency and compassion from the brands they trust. When brands show empathy and support, consumers become more receptive to their messages.
PR can help create communities
These days, consumers crave authenticity from brands––a real, human voice that goes beyond commercial interests. Brand authenticity is linked to brand trust. As Millennial and Gen Z consumers become savvier about brand promotions and product claims, they demand higher transparency and commitment to their brand promises. They will support and patronise brands that know how to walk the talk and are consistent with their values.
This is where public relations comes in, as they help build a community of followers and people with like-minded interests who believe that this brand reflects their lifestyle and the causes they stand for. When real, everyday users show support for a brand, this comes off as more credible and genuine as opposed to sponsored posts by celebrity endorsers.
Creating and fostering a community also help brands develop direct relationships with users, building high engagement levels and establishing a brand’s trustworthiness.
PR can perform vetting of fitting and reputable media partners
With various voices––no matter how divisive or brash––being amplified and becoming popular on social media, it can be tempting to take advantage of the high metrics and explosive engagement levels. Yet it’s important to remember that fake and offensive news can cause harm to a brand’s reputation, losing their position to convey truthful messages.
PR teams can guide their clients in vetting and verifying their contact list, working with reputable news outlets and journalists, as well as independent influencers and thought leaders proven to be credible in their field. Thorough and trusted PR practitioners will also perform social listening and on-ground sentiment analysis in order to accurately assess the most reliable and fitting media partners your target audience trusts.
Working with established media partners helps build enduring value and maintain brand integrity, and allows brands to leverage the trust and relationships that publications have forged with their audiences. Conversely, media outlets and influencers known to work with truthful brands improve their reputation and strengthen their value proposition.
In the age of misinformation, brands need to create trust and communicate honestly with consumers to effectively tell their stories. PR teams can help brands navigate through this increasingly complicated landscape by fostering genuine connections and working with the right partners.
Blue Totem Communications’ team of specialists proudly combines experience and know-how in effective and empathetic messaging that resonates with communities. Our agency has also formed relationships with the most respected media partners across Singapore and Malaysia, helping brands foster trust and authenticity with their audiences. Get in touch with us at bluetotem.co/contact-us today.