Doctor doctor, tell me the news

23 January 2007

Edelman got a market-research company to go out and ask people: "Who do you trust?" They seemed somewhat surprised to note that trust is in short supply, particularly in the UK. The recommendation? You could probably have guessed this one without even looking at the answers:

"If companies want to build trust in the UK, then this survey demonstrates that they must engage with their audiences more effectively than ever before, using a range of traditional and new media."

That's Stuart Smith, CEO of Edelman London. Whatever you were doing before, do more of it. OK, your trust rating has been going down for five years but, at some point, it might start working.

The interesting thing is Edelman's focus on peer-to-peer communications. That is, bloggers. In the bullet-point filled Social Media Press Release, David Brain, president and CEO of the PR company is a bit opaque about it:

"The growing trust in ‘people like me’ and average employees means that companies must design their communications as much on the horizontal or the peer-to-peer axis as on the vertical or top-down axis."

I see. I think. Maybe we should bung the idea in the mental microwave and see if the cat salutes it.

Notice the use of the phrase "people like me" in Brain's seemingly random collision of words. As soon as the results came out about the truth-defeating nature of spin, people were actively spinning the results. And it wasn't just Edelman. Bloggers came out of the survey particularly badly. They ended up with less trust than the year before - down from 10 per cent to 6 per cent. Frankly, and without knowing the composition of the sample, that could be little more than a combination of lack of awareness and statistical flukes. However, keen to come away with a positive message about media, they took the idea that people say they trust "people like me" and converted that phrase to mean bloggers, on the basis that anyone can set up a blog (which does not necessarily mean everyone sets up a blog).

They've read it all wrong. With a trust rating of close to 50 per cent, which is not bad compared with the others, companies should try to get doctors rather than CEOs, hacks, bloggers and PRs to get the message out: "Yes, Mrs Miggins, take two of these VasoFlaterTM tablets a day. And can I recommend CarpetCoke as a way of keeping your olfactory system up to snuff? Plus, there's a two-for-one on low-fat chicken parings at Iceland this week. Don't listen to what they say, they're really very good for you."

And it could be a winner for the pharma companies, as they get to defray the cost of expensive seminars on new wonder drugs by offering sponsorship packages to companies in need of an image makeover.

Actually, NGOs do quite well with almost as good a score as doctors and narcissists. "Hello, is that Oxfam? We've got a proposition for you..."