The Australian public's trust in the country's institutions - NGOs, business and government - continues to fall, according to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer research study.
The Australian Trust Barometer results were launched at events in Melbourne and Sydney last week.
After a year-high of distrust globally in 2012, according to Edelman there has been a "shift back to neutral" in 2013 - except in Australia.
Even the US, which is coming to grips with the after-effects of the Global Financial Crisis, rose 10 points last year on Edelman's trust index - Australia, however, dipped three points (the US sits on 59, Australia on 50).
Trust is highest in China and Singapore (80 and 76 respectively), and lowest in Russia (36).
What does this mean for companies and organisations?
To be frank it's a pretty sad indictment on Australia's leaders, and if anything the advent of social media has only amplified organisations' lack of connection with the community because they are conspicuous by their absence and an obvious lack of 'socialisation' in the marketplace.
Growing trust - let's simply call it relationship building, or what I like to say deepening the intensity of connection with the people who matter the most to the success of your business, cause or issue - should be a standing item on the agenda of all organisations, large or small.
Yes, it's critical an entity's leadership is 100 per cent behind engendering increased connection with the community and without their support an organisation will never truly become a 'connected brand'.
But if anyone outside of senior management can make it happen, it's probably the PR and communications department. Marketing maybe, but as a rule they tend to be more focused on campaign activity and conjuring up short-term sales spikes, versus PR's role which is generally (or should be) concerned with building relationships and reinforcing reputation, the bedrock of which is formed as a result of increased trust and connection with the marketplace.
Absolutely, in large organisations representatives from marketing, HR, R&D, customer service etc need to be involved, but from what I'm hearing about Australian companies, the concept of 'social business' needs a champion internally, and if that person does not excist in the C-suite, then someone senior from the comms department needs to stand up and put the case to senior management.
At a presentation Dionne 'The Social Executive' Lew and I gave last night to the Victorian chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), I emphasised the need for organisations to not go straight to 'call to action' all the time but instead focus on building respect and trust by:
- CONNECTING with the people who matter the most to the success of your business, cause or issue.
- CONTRIBUTING to their lives in ways that are meaningful and respectful.
- CULTIVATING the relationships you already have with people who already like and support your brand.
- COLLABORATE with bloggers/content creators and other like-minded brands to stay fresh and vital, as well as reach new audiences.
Investing in your community, building mutual respect with customers, partners and other stakeholders over time, being human, showing up, admitting your mistakes, keeping your promises - these are the actions that build trust with the public.
Anything else is just window dressing.
The PR Warrior in action at the IABC. PIC: @simonmossman