FRIDAY 2 OCT 2020 11:37 AM


Communicate magazine speaks to Petra Masinova, Kantar's global director of reputation intelligence about the crisis of trust facing the communications industry and the future of the industry, post-Covid, supported by findings from Kantar’s 2020 DIMENSION report.

With Coronavirus fuelling a rise in fake news and disinformation, there is a growing consumer mistrust towards the communications industry. What steps can be taken to solve this trust crisis?

The idea that there’s a universal mistrust in media is misleading. Our latest DIMENSION data shows that trust in media varies between platforms, countries, age and social groups. For example, social media is a trusted source for news and information among those aged 18-34, who have a positive trust gap of 6%. However, social media is the least trusted medium for news and information for those over 65.

Data further shows that some audience demographics will trust those within their closed network more than those outside of it and this information echo-chamber is most evident amongst UK adults aged 18-34. To solve the trust crisis, we need to zoom into specific audience groups and understand what they do and do not trust.

For communicators, the events of 2020 will put a new emphasis on the relevance and authenticity of what we say. If the industry needed a reminder about the need for empathy and the importance of saying the right thing, then the pandemic has certainly delivered it.

I believe there may be fewer campaigns, but they will be of higher quality. Fact checking will also be a priority, as consumers are becoming more data savvy and big tech giants are pledging to take action against fake news on social platforms.

Why should comms professionals help brands rebuild trust in earned and social media in order to thrive in today’s economic climate?

Simply put, without trust loyalty is almost impossible to come by. Our DIMENSION data points to a ‘trust gap’ in social media which has been hard to narrow because the social landscape can be interpreted as confused and contradictory. As shown in my earlier point, the trust gap is less pronounced among consumers aged under 34, who’re the only age group likely to trust social media sources for news and information. This could be a result of their greater openness to all media forms. The variance in trust between different age groups suggests that communicators need to understand the nuances in attitudes to different media channels at a personal and social level.

A combination of engagement across established and new media channels appears to offer the best path to renewing the relationship between brands and consumers, but brands must ensure that content is relevant and audiences are targeted appropriately, at the right place and time.

What does the future of the industry look like post-Covid? What other challenges, besides a lack of trust, will it have to face?

Consumers have recast their social networks around family and friends. They have also spent the last six months seeking out news sources they can rely on. To reflect this, there is likely to be some re-shaping of the media hierarchy, with mainstream platforms gaining new relevance, possibly at the expense of influencer marketing.

At a more practical level, given the financial impact of the pandemic, I know many organisations will be considering difficult decisions in the months to come, but I hope governments and brand owners will understand that now is not the time to reduce their capacity to communicate. It is a very challenging time, but brand relevance is crucial to surviving a pandemic.

We’ve seen some fantastic examples of work from global brands which are engaging as well as deeply empathetic, for example, Nike’s ‘Play Inside, Play for The World’ campaign that was so important during the early stages of the pandemic . This doesn’t just apply to the likes of Nike or Lego, there’s a huge opportunity for challenger brands to connect with their customers. Brands don’t have to be big, but they do have to be brave.

How have Covid-19 and the trust crisis changed stakeholder relations?

Even before the Covid-19 crisis happened, we were seeing a trend towards managing multiple stakeholders and influencers, rather than just the traditional group of media and journalists. More businesses are understanding that they have to deliver value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. Different stakeholders, from local communities, customers, politicians, NGOs as well as trade partners and employees, are the people who form the reputation of a business, so, managing relationships across these groups has never been more important for comms professionals.

Covid-19 has sped up this trend and customers are demanding that businesses address social issues and exemplify wider values prevalent across public discourse today – for example, customers want businesses to drive towards a more sustainable future whilst delivering value for all the communities that businesses are affiliated with. This way of thinking is here to stay - brands should strengthen messaging around wider issues such as CSR and sustainability and ensure that messaging is communicated to all stakeholders and shareholders involved in their success.

How important is data and privacy in relation to trust in comms? What role do the two play?

Privacy concerns have a direct impact in consumer behaviour. Consumers are becoming more ‘data aware’ and are concerned that their privacy is at risk, mostly on social media platforms, with 64% of connected consumers worried about data being used for advertising purposes on social platforms.

With great data comes great responsibility and the industry faces a dilemma between increasing relevance and avoiding intrusiveness, which can jeopardise consumer trust. Industry players must restore consumer confidence and regain trust in commercial message - making the right choice of medium plays an important part in