Every year, Edelman updates and expands its “Trust Barometer” that provides provides business and government leaders with insights into what the public thinks about their performance in the critically important dimension of trust. And, not unexpectedly, the public isn’t thinking very highly of them at the present time.
Edelman’s bleak assessment of declining trust in most institutions echos findings of others, including Dr. Bruce K. Berger of the University of Alabama in his thoughtful Gruning Lecture at the PRSA international conference last fall. In his remarks, Bruce focused on the declining trust of employees in leaders of their companies. After citing alarming employee dissatisfaction, Bruce suggested the time is ripe to start acting rather than talking about the need to curb declining attitudes.
During the presentation by Richard Edelman and others in Chicago last month, I initially was alarmed by the dramatic year-after-year decline in trust. In attempt to view the glass as half full, I decided to position the depressing numbers as an opportunity for public relations professionals. This might be the best time in decades communicators. My theory later was confirmed through phone calls with three executive recruiters seeking internal communications talent. Demand for top talent exceeds available talent. This spells opportunities for those considering the direction of their PR careers.
Exploring my opportunity theory, I asked Rick Murray, president of Edelman’s Chicago office, to weigh in with suggestions for young people pursuing PR careers.
“First and foremost.” Rick said. “Be prepared to adapt to whatever the environment throws you on a daily basis. It’s impossible to teach ‘how to change’ in a textbook, and today that need [to change] doesn’t have a pause button. You have to be always on, and organizations that aren’t pay the consequences, quickly.
“Second, it’s critical that students understand that in today’s environment, people choose to consume the media that best suits them. Some is right and some is left, but both are the only ‘right’ point of view to those that watch / read / listen to them.”
If I had the opportunity to do college over again, I would load up on classes in business, psychology and organizational change. Facing the imperative to improve employee and public perceptions, business and government will be increasing their efforts to hire communication professionals who can help regain trust.