News flash: our nation’s infrastructure is eroding and needs to be fixed – quickly.
So says Brian Pallasch, Managing Director for Government Relations at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), who I heard speak recently at the national Site Selectors Guild conference in Nashville.
Every four years, ASCE provides a report card on the state of America’s infrastructure. For the study’s most recent year, 2013, our overall grade “improved” to a D-plus.
Unfortunately, our nation’s roads, bridges, dams, levees and transit systems aren’t the only things that have slowly eroded over time.
What’s even more disturbing is the slow but steady erosion of trust in our society.
Surveys by major polling organizations have shown a steady decline in the trustworthiness of our society’s basic institutions over a period spanning many decades. One glaring example is Pew Research Center’s nearly 60-year study of Americans’ trust in the federal government. From its early 1960s peak, when 80% of Americans said they “trust the federal government to do what’s right,” that number has plummeted to 20% or less in recent years.
The trend of trust erosion holds for many other types of institutions, from financial to religious. Institutions of all kinds have experienced steady declines in the public’s ability to trust them, largely because of a failure to do or communicate the right things in a timely manner.
In a recent Chicago Tribune article, “America has a problem with trust, and it’s getting worse,” Edelman PR’s CEO, Richard Edelman, states that leaders of organizations need to spend more time working to earn the trust of key audiences “because if you aren’t trusted, you can’t sell products, hire people or attract or keep investors.”
Great public relations means working to ensure your organization is doing the right things for the right reasons, and then communicating those actions. It’s not about putting a “positive spin” on something that is inherently wrong or unfair. It’s why in today’s world, PR is Everything. The public has experienced enough spin in recent years to know that if an institution can’t be trusted, then it also cannot be supported by their vote, their business or their time.
What is your organization doing to ensure it invests in, and builds upon, its own trust infrastructure? Are you using pr to grow trust and provide counsel before actions, or just “spin” them afterward? You can start answering these questions with our free website trustworthiness checklist.