Why should you trust me?

I know that I often argue for robust research, but I’ve also presented an argument many times that online ain’t that different to “the real world”.  That’s my reaction to all the fuss on the topic of who people trust. [Link via Judy Gombita]

I’m surprised that bloggers seem surprised by recent studies indicating most people trust people they know and friends and family are key influencers on attitudes and decisions. 

Source credibility theory has long proposed a number of dimensions of influence:

  1. trustworthiness
  2. competence
  3. objectivity
  4. dynamism
  5. expertise
  6. physical attractiveness
  7. similarity

Trust is a key factor.  But it has been publicly seen to have been abused in recent years by traditional “expert” influencers, such as journalists, corporations, scientists, politicians, doctors, lawyers, banks, celebrities, etc etc. 

We are less and less impressed by those claiming expertise or status in society.  We’ve few real role models in public figures to look up to.  We question objectivity knowing that corporate cheque books often buy endorsement.

Trust is something that has to be earned, and this involves a consistent believability that is established over time.  So no wonder we look to those we have built genuine relationships with when making important decisions.

Whether bloggers and virtual social media friends are influential will similarly depend on the relationships and trust that is established. 

The rules that public relations practitioners need to reflect when counselling organisations in the area of credibility, trust and influence are pretty basic.  I’ve written about it before – do as you would be done by.

That means that big businesses, such as oil companies, are unlikely to be trusted when they report record profits, while motorists struggle to afford petrol at £5 a gallon.  Banks are bailed out and pay big bonuses, yet many ordinary people face the threat of losing their homes. 

Politicians lie, scientists twist figures to suit their cause, celebrities are vacuous and self-interested.  Hardly the characteristics of people who should be trusted.  So why all the surprise?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Why should you trust me?”

  1. Actually, I do trust you, Heather. Quite a bit. And from the first post I read on your blog, I valued and respected you as a thinker and writer, practitioner and teacher.

    But “trust” was not immediate (why would it be?). Rather, it built up over time and mainly through our offline correspondence, where we shared information and impressions (finding commonalities and the occasional difference) one-to-one. I don’t believe either of us felt the desire or need to do this in a public forum (like a blog).

    Moving forward it’s a question of whether this trust relationship is of a long-time nature (I hope so!), or whether it will prove to be of a shorter nature, perhaps changing due to individual circumstances and changing priorities.

    I do believe that people who actively participate in social media (i.e., content providers and commenters, rather than lurker-readers) are part of a great experiment about the changing nature and dynamics of relationships, including genuine dialogue and trust. At this point my gut feeling is that human nature really hasn’t changed that much, meaning that real trust will continue to be built one-to-one, rather than one-to-many, particularly when it comes to organizations experimenting with social media tactics and channels.

  2. I noticed that in today’s issue of The Firm Voice (A Publication of the Council of Public Relations Firms, which is distributed by Bulldog Reporter), there was an article by Ron Sachs, President, Is Modern Comms Technology Ringing the Death Knell of ‘Real’ Communications?.

    This paragraph caught my eye, because it echoes of what I alluded to in my earlier comment:

    “This is a global warning — a not-so-silent silent alarm: we’re in the beginning of the end of real communications that actually convey warmth, personal involvement and concern. There is no rebel force fighting to retain the last vestiges of human contact that could prevent us all from being locked in our own narrow stalls of technology.”

    I say real trust also needs real communications. And I bet Sachs would agree.

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