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The 2024 State of the Media Report

Get actionable insight from 3,000+ journalists on what they truly want and need from PR teams.

PR and Brand Reputation: Forging Trust in the Age of Skepticism

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In today's digital age, where information spreads at lightning speed and consumers are more discerning than ever, public relations and corporate communications professionals face a formidable challenge: how to build and maintain trust in the age of skepticism. 

Trust is the foundation of any successful business, taking years to establish but only moments to shatter. PR and corporate communications professionals are the guardians of that trust, responsible for crafting and conveying a positive brand image, managing crises, and navigating the intricate web of public perception. 

With the proliferation of fake news, social media misinformation, and growing concerns about privacy and corporate ethics, the need for a solid PR strategy to safeguard and enhance brand reputation has never been greater.

Here are several key strategies for PR and comms teams to consider for building trust and fostering brand loyalty in an era marked by skepticism.

Authenticity and Transparency

In this climate of skepticism, authenticity and transparency are your greatest allies. Today’s consumers demand honesty and openness from the brands they engage with. PR and communications professionals must ensure that their messaging aligns with their brands’ or organizations’ actions and values. Any discrepancy between words and deeds can rapidly erode trust.  If you're exposing your customers to fast-evolving technology like AI, don't wait around for legislation to guide your usage. Be proactive and establish your own internal code of ethics and best practices, then communicate them externally.

Additionally, upholding high ethical standards in business practices is non-negotiable. A recent Forrester study found that 55% of U.S. adults would boycott a brand if it was found to have unethical business practices. As the corporate C-suite relies more on the guidance and counsel of their comms teams, communicators have more influence and should urge leadership to practice what they preach when it comes to matters of corporate social responsibility and ESG.

Effective Storytelling

Crafting compelling narratives is a cornerstone of any effective public relations and communications strategy. However, it's essential to tell stories that resonate with your target audience and reflect your brand's core values. A well-told story can build an emotional connection, foster trust, and create brand advocates who are more likely to forgive mistakes. 

Collaborating with trusted influencers can also be an effective way to build trust, provided the partnerships are genuine and align with your brand's values. Consumers often trust the recommendations of influencers they believe are creating content that is authentic to who they are, making it essential to choose partners wisely. 

Continuous Listening

An important channel for PR and comms, social media can be a double-edged sword. While it offers a platform for direct engagement with your audience, it can also amplify negative sentiment if not handled correctly. PR and corporate comms teams must be proactive in monitoring and managing social media conversations, addressing issues promptly, and engaging positively with customers.

In this age of instant communication, crises can escalate rapidly. PR professionals should have a well-thought-out crisis management plan in place, outlining roles, responsibilities, and communication strategies. Quick, transparent, and empathetic responses during crises are vital in preserving trust.


Finally, PR and comms professionals must remain adaptable and ready to evolve their strategies over time. Quantifying the impact of PR and corporate communications efforts is crucial. Track key performance indicators (KPIs) such as brand sentiment, share of voice, and media coverage to assess the effectiveness of your strategies and make data-driven improvements. (Related : Making it Count: A Step-by-Step Guide to Monitoring and Measuring the Impact of PR)

A holistic strategy of media monitoring, social listening and data analysis is crucial to staying informed about shifts in public perception, enabling you to adapt strategies as needed. Staying ahead of the curve is essential to maintaining trust in the age of skepticism.

Final Thoughts

Trust is the currency of the age of social media – and the rapid rise of generative AI is only adding to its value. Building and preserving trust requires authenticity and transparency, effective storytelling, continuous listening, and adaptability. By employing these strategies, PR professionals can navigate the challenges of the modern media landscape and forge lasting bonds between brands and their audiences. Remember, in the age of skepticism, trust can give you the ultimate competitive advantage.

Want to find out how Cision can help you apply these tools and tactics to build trust and gain the ultimate competitive advantage? Speak with a Cision expert today.