How are Echo Chambers, Trust and News Connected to PR?

(Part 2 of 4)

Click here to read part 1 in this series.

No Surprise

The consequences of this phenomenon really boil down to one key theme: trust. It’s absolutely zero surprise to anyone that in a time when the media is wrongly demonized on a public level that the public trust of the media is also declining at historic rates.

One could point to the annual Edelman Trust Barometer study for 2017 to help paint the picture of how broken the trust between the media and the public really is. The results are damning, and that’s putting it lightly. Let’s dig into two points from this study that are in line with our topic at hand.

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The Media Echo Chamber

To me, this really boils down to how the public is curating their news feeds now more than ever. What I mean by that is news consumers are now not only consciously picking where they get their news from, but also doing it unconsciously via algorithms that tailor news to their interests.

If you can remember back to a time, I know it was long ago, when the election took place and how much curation was taking place at that time. Try think back to how your friends said – “Ugh, I am so sick of seeing these Breitbart and Occupy Democrats articles coming across my news feed, how do I get them to stop?” That’s really what this issue is about. The public is now living in multiple echo chambers – remember that multiple social media sites do exist and curation takes place on all the platforms. To further that point, look at this stat from the Edelmen study.

“People are nearly four times more likely to ignore information that supports a position they don’t believe in; don’t regularly listen to those with whom they often disagree (53%); and are more likely to believe search engines (59%) over human editors (41%)”

Look, I’m all for trusting each other – but this isn’t the way that things should work. Your friends don’t count as credible news sources. And contrary to popular belief – the mainstream media DOES care about how the public perceives them. How could they survive without the public? They are here to serve us, not feed us lies.

Peers Highly Credible

I know I just bashed on this in the above paragraph, but in a shocking turn of events, our peers are becoming credible news sources. I can’t tell you how much I disagree with this but it’s the reality we live in.

“For the first time, “a person like yourself” is as credible a source for information about a company as a technical or academic expert (all three at 60%).”

So, now we have a situation where the public is curating their social media feeds at high rates and trust in each other, in terms of information sharing, appears to be on a historic rise. The question that comes to my mind is how can important, credible news reach those who need to hear it?

PR Navigation and News

We can only speculate if fake news is influencing these statistics, but I think you’d be foolish to say they weren’t. Now, how are public relations professionals supposed to navigate through to push their messages? We’ll tackle that tomorrow. Be sure to give me a follow at @AustinOmaha and discuss this topic with me. I’d love to chat about your thoughts, opinions, and insight into this issue as it effects all of us.

Austin Gaule is the PR Measurement Director at Universal Information Services

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