Trust, schadenfreude and the PR industry

I hope my old boss Richard Edelman has his feet up this week, because last week was quite a disaster by some accounts.

As is usual, he launched the eponymous firm’s great annual piece of thought leadership, The Edelman Trust Barometer, at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum.

This is the 23rd year of the only piece of data that anyone in the PR industry produces that anyone outside the PR industry has ever heard of. 

It has swollen to a poll of 32,000 respondents in 28 countries and is an enormous commitment from the firm.

But the study and Edelman’s right to talk about trust at all, was doubted by the Guardian and even the FT seemed to forget that they used to share the Trust platform with Edelman at Davos and jumped in. 

And then Elon Musk, heard that Richard had suggested in one of his many interviews that businesses stop advertising on social media platforms that do not curb hate speech and said he was a “despicable human being” and that his job (and by extension all PR professionals) “is literally being a professional liar”. 

And if that was not enough, the giants of the UK PR Twitter scene waded in gleefully sharing unflattering coverage as they do any time the giant stumbles or falls short of their latest ethical benchmark.

One luminary was so incensed, he suggested that the PR industry should confiscate the study from Edelman and publish it themselves. I kid you not.

Richard will not give a toss about Elon’s views.  He will worry about bad media coverage, but he will be soothed when he measures the weight of good coverage. Just Google Edelman Trust Study and see for yourself.

This year’s study has already been straightforwardly covered in a host of business publications and the Edelman machine is only just starting.

Teams across all those 28 countries will be finalising national versions of the decks and rolling them out over the next few weeks in mini versions of the Davos launch.  Global practice and sector leaders will be doing the same.

I know because for January and February for 13 years I saw more of the Trust Study data, Davos and Richard than my own kids.  

And so for the next few weeks, business, media and NGOs around the world will discuss the findings and PR will be centre stage and fundamental lessons learned and the industry will take another step forward in understanding and acceptance of its contribution.

And even those in UK PR Twitter and social groups will quietly be updating their decks and strategy presentations because it’s one thing to take cheap swipes at the industry leader but it’s another to waste free data you could use to further your own business.

The Edelman Trust Barometer is a feature not a bug of the PR industry.  

If the rest of the PR industry had the same commitment to fundamental research that Edelman does, it would be a lot better regarded – and I say that not only because I own a research business.

And if the other leaders of the industry (agency and in-house) worked as hard and as long as Richard has to focus the attention of global leaders on the fundamental value PR delivers, more of them might get to the boardroom or be invited to present on the biggest global business stages.

Schadenfreude is a hard habit to kick though.

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