A Matter of Trust


(by Radio Ink Publisher Deborah Parenti) There is always a lot of discussion regarding the importance of attracting audiences, especially millennials, to the radio table. And it needs to be a big table, one large enough to include not only younger listeners, but those on the buy side of media who are also part of a younger generation.

Most of the focus of these discussions revolves around platforms, ensuring that radio is on them and accessible wherever and whenever listeners tend to engage. That is of utmost importance. If radio isn’t “there” or easy to find, an engagement can’t exist, no matter how compelling the content.

But content does indeed step to the forefront once that platform is accessed by the listener. Just as content is front and center with the tattooed media buyer sitting in front of you, impatiently waiting to hear something that relates to the parameters she needs to meet, lights her creative spark, and can be wrapped up so she can make the next train home.

This is the real world. It’s a world in turmoil more than ever over divisive issues and emotions that often erupt first and ask for facts later.

It’s against this backdrop that the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer was issued. The Trust Barometer is an annual global study that has been conducted since 2001. If you’re not familiar with it, I strongly encourage you to check it out. It’s a fascinating read that details many more nuggets than this column can include.

In brief, what began as a five-country survey on the issue of trust has since grown to a study covering 28 countries that measures perceptions and levels of trust in business, government, media, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), by country.

It may come as no surprise that this year media was found to be the least trusted institution globally. Trust in the media fell below 50 percent in 22 of the 28 countries surveyed.

More dismal is the fact that the U.S. suffered its largest drop in trust-related matters in the history of the survey. Needless to say, the root of so much of this loss of faith is in the proliferation of misinformation and bias, fueled by social media that can be commandeered by virtually anyone, no credibility required. While some may see a disconnect with “that” media — the one tied to journalism and newsrooms — versus the one in which our readers ply their craft as sellers, managers, and marketers, time out. It’s actually not a far stretch. In fact, there is a relationship. The global trust crisis extends to brands: 42 percent of respondents said they didn’t know what brands to trust.

But there is also good news. According to the Holmes Report, which covers public relations news, Stephen Kehoe, Edelman’s new global chair of reputation, shared this. “It is concerning, but it’s also a point of opportunity for brands. In a world where we are searching for truth, there is a real thirst for those who can convey facts in the right way. Trust in business has gone up relative to governments and even NGOs. Businesses are expected to take a lead.”

That point is further hammered home by the fact that CEO credibility climbed a whopping seven points, to 44 percent. This rise is credited to high-profile business leaders who have gone public in airing opinions and taking positions on pressing issues, especially those with social implications. It’s something people expect today. Some of the most admired companies are those that foster community involvement, sponsoring social action events, and/or giving time off for public service by employees. As such, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in 20 markets.

Here’s the bottom line — and the opportunity. People are looking for leadership. They want leaders and brands they can trust.

In radio’s corner of the media world, that calls for knowing not only what kind of content to air, but assurance that its source can be trusted. It means that ad schedules are not only designed to meet a marketer’s needs, but that they can be relied on to run as ordered. And it means managers and executives who can be trusted by staff to lead with integrity and provide that same sense of credibility among clients and community.

More than ever, success today takes more than compelling content on every platform. It has to be real.

It’s a matter of trust.


  1. More now than ever, radio has every opportunity to avoid expecting audiences and advertisers to continue blindly accepting weasel-worded assertions of stations’ business ethics and morals, as these have become even more subject to cynically expedient and fluid adjustments – depending on external and internal pressures.

    Sooner than perhaps expected or welcome, more of radio will be challenged to: Demonstrate Its Abilities. Anything less just makes up more noise, or part of the background din.


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