Individual influence and the collapse of trust

This year we’ve seen a huge decline in trust across the globe. Trust in government, in business, in NGOs and in the media has dropped to some of the lowest levels seen in 17 years, as reported in the Edelman Trust Barometer survey of 33,000 respondents across the globe.

What lessons can communicators draw from this?

Among the first must be that understanding, and working with, the dynamics of individual influence is now critically important.

For communicators in any field, influencer work is now essential – for everyone, not just for the video gaming and packaged consumer goods brands that have led the charge over the past years.

Edelman’s research shows us that, by and large, institutions are not trusted.

Whether information comes to you from the media, from companies, from NGOs or from government, most people don’t trust it.


Trust in the mainstream media, in particular, has seen a significant decline.


But 60% of people still trust a ‘person like me’ – way higher than those who will trust any sort of official representative.


This means that in 2017, what a story says, and who made it, matters less than who shared it with you.

Social networks aren’t just important – they are everything.

And I’m not talking about social networks in the sense of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

I’m talking about real social networks – the people you know, the people known by each member of your target audience.

The way to get a message across is to get it shared by people who are relevant, who are authoritative, and who can reach your target audience.

The audience is the medium of transmission now.

In 2017, finding the key members of that target audience – the ones who can make ideas circulate – and engaging with them, has become the communicator’s number one task.

Lead image by David B Young on Flickr

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