Trust in institutions is in crisis. According to the Pew Research Center, there has been a collapse in the community’s trust in the U.S. government institutions from a high of 73 percent in 1960 to an all-time historical low of 18 percent in 2017. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that institutions around the world in general are more trusted, but not by much: the global average slipped to 47 percent in 2017.
It is clear that we, as communication professionals, could be doing more in this environment to effectively communicate the purpose and meaning of the organizations we work for, in particular those organizations that are pursuing meaningful change to benefit their communities.
Communicators have a great challenge indeed, because we need institutional “substance” to stop the freefall of trust. When we don’t have it, the temptation is to resort to spin, and spin’s new face, “fake news,” which, we all know, is one of the most deadly and effective ways of killing trust and destroying the reputation of an organization in the long run.
A study conducted by the UBC Sauder School of Business found that, “In the era of fake news, less scrupulous businesses are using deceptive tactics to smear their rivals. But companies that spread fake news against their competitors ultimately experience the brunt of negative publicity and reputational damage.”
We do not know if we have touched the “trust floor,” but another victim of the lack of trust is truth itself. It’s harder than ever to separate lies from the truth. Fake news and spin are a way of corrupting communication, and with it, the perceptions of government and organizations. Take, for example, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index from 2016,...
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