Last week Edelman, my employer, published our tenth annual Trust Barometer study. You can read the full report here. One of the more juicy statistics that Advertising Age and others noted is that trust in peers surprisingly dropped dramatically from 47% to 27%.
"This is bad news for PR agencies because social media has been the ‘point of the spear’ for so many firms. This is what brings in new business."
While he's right that social media has been a big business driver, I respectfully disagree with Tom that this is bad news for the PR agencies. It won't make the PR industry's case for social media budgets any less compelling. In fact, it's awesome news. Here's why...
If you dig into the report, you'll note that the Trust data shows that we're desperately seeking out experts. This is unsurprising given the torrent of information we're all contending with. We're self-curating and in the process seeking out higher authorities.
Taking this a step further, this is where PR agencies shine. We have decades of experience positioning companies, NGOs, execs and employees in the ranks as subject-matter experts. So what does this have to do with social media? A lot. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it are by far the fastest and most effective ways for an any individual or a company to build a thought leadership footprint. So, if you think about it, this isn't 2012 scenario as Foremski suggests. All it means that we'll have to work harder to build credibility through online thought leadership. If you're doing this with scale, you will win.
In addition, beyond that, we will have to do it all to break through the noise. So I don't see this as bad news at all. Richard Edelman, our CEO, sums this up best with his quotes in Advertising Age:
"The events of the last 18 months have scarred people," Mr. Edelman said. "People have to see messages in different places and from different people. That means experts as well as peers or company employees. It's a more-skeptical time. So if companies are looking at peer-to-peer marketing as another arrow in the quiver, that's good, but they need to understand it's not a single-source solution. It's a piece of the solution."
Bingo. All this means is less fluff more substance. And that's a good thing.