The assault on fact and truth during the past decade has been so intense, and relentless from so many sources, that discerning what’s real today requires conscious effort.
Powerful individuals and organizations propagating falsehoods to exert influence over the masses are not new. But now, people genuinely are at a loss about where to go for objective, unbiased information.
Gallup has polled Americans’ trust in institutions every year since 1973. Its 2022 report released in July found that “confidence in institutions has been lacking for most of the past 15 years, but their trust in key institutions has hit a new low this year.”
Of the 16 institutions, Gallup annually assesses, only organized labor did not fall in public confidence. Twenty-eight percent of Americans last year and this year stated they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in that institution.
Building Back Trust One Interaction at a Time
Confidence in the presidency plunged by 15 percentage points to 23% this year from 38% in 2021. The Supreme Court cratered to 25% in 2022 from 36% the year prior. Trust in newspapers stood at an abysmal 16%, down from 21% last year. And TV news fared even worse, hitting 11%, falling from its previous 16%.
As a former journalist who toiled in newsrooms for 24 years to report facts and truth to audiences throughout the country, the status of the latter two categories is particularly disheartening.
Yet, my mission remains unchanged now that I work for Treble.
As a senior content and media strategist who works daily with venture capitalists, startup founders, CEOs and other executives, my top priority is to ensure we, as an agency, are disseminating information to journalists and the public at large that is factual and true.
In this way, public-relations professionals of integrity strive to adhere to many of the same stringent ethical guidelines that the best news organizations do.
We do not fabricate. We do not fictionalize. We do not intentionally publish false information, inaccuracies or distortions. We correct our mistakes and take responsibility for them.
We represent clients who literally pay our salaries. This inherently means we cannot be objective and unbiased in the same way news reporters are. Yes, it's true we have an agenda: to help our clients grow, scale and exit; achieve their business goals; and, obtain positive media coverage that propels them toward those outcomes.
We do this honestly, in good faith and truthfully to guarantee that the journalists we pitch trust us, our clients and our word. These principles guide us as we work with our clients. We impart the necessity that they, too, must communicate to us only facts and statements backed by data and evidence.
Operating any other way would serve only to negatively impact our reputation and that of our clients, not to mention our media relationships.
Treble’s standards obligate us to act hand in hand with all those who also fight disinformation: falsehoods purposefully disseminated with the intent to mislead or deceive; and, misinformation: falsehoods disseminated regardless of intent.
The battle can seem Sisyphean, especially with social media’s ability to amplify lies, technological advances that have normalized deep fakes, and a pervasive lack of confidence that truth will prevail.
Principled public-relations professionals whose integrity is on the line just as much as those journalists we pitch can further tip the scales to what’s right by avoiding exaggeration, hyperbole, jargon, and nonsense.
Doing so will, over time, demonstrate to journalists and the public alike that PR firms are, in fact, partners.