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Trust in Communicators 2019 Study: How the general population trusts journalists, public relations professionals, marketeers and other communicators: A comparative study in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom

The "Trust in Communicators" (TiCS) study has been conducted by researchers from Leipzig University, Leeds Beckett University, and IULM University Milan within the framework of EUPRERA, facilitated by Cision Insights and Fink & Fuchs. It is linked to the European Communication Monitor research project. The study combines representative polls of adults aged 16 to 64 from Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom with a survey of communication practitioners in the same countries. The public poll highlighted that communication and PR professionals are trusted and recognised more highly in the UK than in Germany or Italy. However, the general public has a high-level of distrust in these professionals. A trust gap was identified between communications and PR professionals and journalists, but it was not as wide as expected and is closing. Information about organisations is often spread by people who are not acting in a professional communication role – i.e. organisational advocates such as supportive customers (fans, brand ambassadors), experts in the field (academics, consultants) or activists with overlapping interests. The polls found that external experts are the most trusted of these advocates, but all are trusted more highly than communication and PR professionals. Efforts should be focussed on enabling these advocacy groups to promote the trust-building process. The polls also revealed that the general population has fuzzy perceptions about the goals and activities of PR professionals. Whilst communication and PR professionals misperceive the public’s opinion about them and overestimate public trust. These professionals also misjudge their role in the trust-building process and ignore public trust in external advocates. The full report (PDF, 38 pp.) is available for download.

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How the general population trusts journalists,
public relations professionals, marketeers and
other communicators: A comparative study in
Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom
TRUST IN
COMMUNICATORS
#TICS19
Facilitated by:
2
TOPICS
How the general
population trusts
professional
communicators
How the general
population trusts
organisational
advocates
01 02 03 04
What the general
population thinks
about public
relations activities
How PR
practitioners
misperceive the
public’s opinion
2
3
The traditions and institutions, the power of public opinion
and the definition of the position which inescapably stamps
the individual, have become so solid and reliable that one
has to know only certain external facts about the other
person in order to have the confidence required for the
common action. The question is no longer some foundation
of personal qualities on which (at least in principle) a
modification of behaviour within the relation might be based:
motivation and regulation of this behaviour have become so
objectified that confidence no longer needs any properly
personal knowledge.
Georg Simmel, 1950, p. 319
4
Introduction
Public trust is indispensable for any organisation. In today’s globalised and mediatised
world this is mainly based on information published in traditional and social media. Previous
research has mainly focused on the role of professional communicators like journalists,
public relations practitioners or marketing experts in this process. They need to be trusted
as well – otherwise any efforts to support trust building will fail. However, times have
changed. Intermediaries such as social media influencers are gaining in importance
(Borchers, 2019). CEOs and board members twitter themselves. And even regular
employees have become more important within the paradigm of the so called
“communicative organisation” (Heide et al., 2018). Many argue that organisations should
use those advocates instead of professional communicators. But does the general
population trust them? And how does trust in them compare with trust in established actors?
This study dives deeper into these issues. A representative poll of the general population in
Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom unveils the perceived trust in journalists, PR and
marketing professionals, and other groups speaking on behalf of organisations.
A parallel survey among communication professionals in the same countries shows how
practitioners assess public trust in those parties. It becomes clear that communicators
overestimate their own role and the role of their leaders. They misjudge and ignore public
trust in external advocates.
Communication professionals are encouraged to read these results carefully, as new actors
like activists or internal and external influencers are becoming more important for all kinds
of organisations. We hope that readers will gain new insights into the complex processes
and antecedents of trust building from reading this report.
Ansgar Zerfass | Markus Wiesenberg Ralph Tench Stefania Romenti
Leipzig University Leeds Beckett University IULM Milan
5
General
population
(Kantar TNS)
Communication
professionals
(ECM 2019)
n = 1,051 n = 155
n = 1,050 n = 168
n = 1,029 n = 171
Research design and methods
Objectives
The aim of this study is twofold: On the one hand, we have been interested in different types of communi-
cators and how the general population trusts or distrusts them in key European countries. We compared
this with the trust perceptions of communication professionals in the same countries. On the other hand,
we were interested in perceptions of the general population about public relations activities and whether
this affects the trust in public relations and communication professionals.
Research questions
The study asked for the perception of trust and distrust in professional communicators by the general popu-
lation in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (RQ1). Moreover, trust and distrust in other organisational
advocates by the general population have been investigated (RQ2). Another question focused on the
understanding of public relations activities by the general population and how this may influence their trust
or distrust in communication practitioners (RQ3). Last but not least, the public’s opinion was compared with
the trust levels perceived by communication professionals in the same countries (RQ4).
Design and survey method
Based on former studies and existing literature on trust in communication professionals, a statement list
was constructed to survey the amount of trust or distrust in all kinds of public communicators who can
speak on behalf of an organisation as well as journalists when they report about organisations. Also,
statements regarding public relations activities were outlined. To survey trust and distrust as well as the
different concepts of public relations we used five-point Likert scales (shown below every result chart).
Population and sample
The survey is based on a representative sample of adults aged 16 to 64 from Germany, Italy and the UK
(interviewed via an internet omnibus in March 2019 by Kantar TNS). These countries were chosen because
they represent Western, Central and Southern Europe and reached the highest Gross Domestic Product
(GDP) in their region in 2018. In addition, communication professionals have been surveyed as part of the
annual European Communication Monitor in March 2019 (Zerfass et al., 2019, p. 11).
Data analysis
The data were analysed with descriptive and analytical statistical methods using IBM SPSS software.
Trust in Communicators 2019
study in key European markets
6
Trust in
professional
communicators
01

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Trust in Communicators 2019 Study: How the general population trusts journalists, public relations professionals, marketeers and other communicators: A comparative study in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom

  • 1. 1 How the general population trusts journalists, public relations professionals, marketeers and other communicators: A comparative study in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom TRUST IN COMMUNICATORS #TICS19 Facilitated by:
  • 2. 2 TOPICS How the general population trusts professional communicators How the general population trusts organisational advocates 01 02 03 04 What the general population thinks about public relations activities How PR practitioners misperceive the public’s opinion 2
  • 3. 3 The traditions and institutions, the power of public opinion and the definition of the position which inescapably stamps the individual, have become so solid and reliable that one has to know only certain external facts about the other person in order to have the confidence required for the common action. The question is no longer some foundation of personal qualities on which (at least in principle) a modification of behaviour within the relation might be based: motivation and regulation of this behaviour have become so objectified that confidence no longer needs any properly personal knowledge. Georg Simmel, 1950, p. 319
  • 4. 4 Introduction Public trust is indispensable for any organisation. In today’s globalised and mediatised world this is mainly based on information published in traditional and social media. Previous research has mainly focused on the role of professional communicators like journalists, public relations practitioners or marketing experts in this process. They need to be trusted as well – otherwise any efforts to support trust building will fail. However, times have changed. Intermediaries such as social media influencers are gaining in importance (Borchers, 2019). CEOs and board members twitter themselves. And even regular employees have become more important within the paradigm of the so called “communicative organisation” (Heide et al., 2018). Many argue that organisations should use those advocates instead of professional communicators. But does the general population trust them? And how does trust in them compare with trust in established actors? This study dives deeper into these issues. A representative poll of the general population in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom unveils the perceived trust in journalists, PR and marketing professionals, and other groups speaking on behalf of organisations. A parallel survey among communication professionals in the same countries shows how practitioners assess public trust in those parties. It becomes clear that communicators overestimate their own role and the role of their leaders. They misjudge and ignore public trust in external advocates. Communication professionals are encouraged to read these results carefully, as new actors like activists or internal and external influencers are becoming more important for all kinds of organisations. We hope that readers will gain new insights into the complex processes and antecedents of trust building from reading this report. Ansgar Zerfass | Markus Wiesenberg Ralph Tench Stefania Romenti Leipzig University Leeds Beckett University IULM Milan
  • 5. 5 General population (Kantar TNS) Communication professionals (ECM 2019) n = 1,051 n = 155 n = 1,050 n = 168 n = 1,029 n = 171 Research design and methods Objectives The aim of this study is twofold: On the one hand, we have been interested in different types of communi- cators and how the general population trusts or distrusts them in key European countries. We compared this with the trust perceptions of communication professionals in the same countries. On the other hand, we were interested in perceptions of the general population about public relations activities and whether this affects the trust in public relations and communication professionals. Research questions The study asked for the perception of trust and distrust in professional communicators by the general popu- lation in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (RQ1). Moreover, trust and distrust in other organisational advocates by the general population have been investigated (RQ2). Another question focused on the understanding of public relations activities by the general population and how this may influence their trust or distrust in communication practitioners (RQ3). Last but not least, the public’s opinion was compared with the trust levels perceived by communication professionals in the same countries (RQ4). Design and survey method Based on former studies and existing literature on trust in communication professionals, a statement list was constructed to survey the amount of trust or distrust in all kinds of public communicators who can speak on behalf of an organisation as well as journalists when they report about organisations. Also, statements regarding public relations activities were outlined. To survey trust and distrust as well as the different concepts of public relations we used five-point Likert scales (shown below every result chart). Population and sample The survey is based on a representative sample of adults aged 16 to 64 from Germany, Italy and the UK (interviewed via an internet omnibus in March 2019 by Kantar TNS). These countries were chosen because they represent Western, Central and Southern Europe and reached the highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in their region in 2018. In addition, communication professionals have been surveyed as part of the annual European Communication Monitor in March 2019 (Zerfass et al., 2019, p. 11). Data analysis The data were analysed with descriptive and analytical statistical methods using IBM SPSS software. Trust in Communicators 2019 study in key European markets
  • 7. Trust in journalists, public relations practitioners & marketing professionals For decades the public sphere and what the general population perceives to know about organisations was influenced by two antagonists: journalists, who report on organisations from an external standpoint, and public relations and marketing professionals, who communicate on behalf of their organisations or clients (Bentele & Nothhaft, 2010; Ryan & Martinson, 1988). While journalists have been highly trusted by the general population in the Western hemisphere, public relations practitioners and marketeers have been distrusted to a much higher extent, according to various studies on trust and distrust in communication professionals (GfK Verein, 2018; Larsson, 2007; Rawlins, 2007; White & Park, 2010). The results presented in this section demonstrate that the contradiction between trusted journalists and distrusted communication and marketing professionals still exists in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom. But the gap is much smaller than expected. The decline of trust in mass media across Europe (Commission europénne, 2019, pp. 40-43) seems to impact journalists as well. Marketing communicators are least trusted.
  • 8. 8 SOCIAL MEDIA 53% neutral view 17% trust journalists One third of the general population distrusts journalists when they report about organisations 30% distrust journalists TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust journalists when they report about organisations? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). The neutral answer can be interpreted as “reliance”, “confliction”, “indifference” or “wariness” according to Rusk (2018, p. 107).
  • 9. 9 27% 30% 34% 52% 53% 53% 21% 17% 13% UK German y Italy 1 - 2 (Strong) distrust 3 Neutral 4 - 5 (Strong) trust Italians are most critical of journalists in their country TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGER = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust journalists when they report about organisations? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Highly significant differences between countries (chi-square test, p ≤ 0.01).
  • 10. 10 High level of distrust in communication and public relations professionals in the general population 38% distrust PR practitioners 12% trust PR practitioners 50% neutral view Age matters The older the people, the more they distrust communication and public relations practitioners TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Item: Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust).
  • 11. 11 Distrust in PR professionals is highest in Germany and trust is the strongest in the United Kingdom 8%50%49% 12% 16% TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029; NIT = 1,050; NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Item: Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Highly significant differences between countries (chi-square test, p ≤ 0.01). (Strong) distrust (Strong) trustNeutral view 42% 47% 52%32% 41%
  • 12. 12 Nearly half of the population in Germany, Italy and the UK distrusts marketing and sales representatives 47% distrust marketeers 12% trust marketeers 41% neutral view TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Item: Marketing and sales representatives of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust).
  • 13. 13 Distrust in marketeers is the strongest in Italy 9%42%49% 11% 16% TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029; NIT = 1,050; NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Item: Marketing and sales representatives of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Highly significant differences between countries (chi-square test, p ≤ 0.01). (Strong) distrust (Strong) trustNeutral view 49% 40% 42%42% 50%
  • 14. 14 Journalists are more trusted than PR and marketing practitioners – but differences are rather small (Strong) Distrust Neutral (Strong) Trust 30% 53% 17% 38% 50% 12% 47% 41% 12% Journalists that report about organisations Communication and public relations practitioners Marketing and sales representatives TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029; NIT = 1,050; NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Questions: How much do you trust journalists when they report about organisations? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). How much do you trust these communicators? Items: Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations; Marketing and sales representatives of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust).
  • 15. 15 Large trust gap between journalists and PR practitioners in Germany, less in the UK and Italy TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029; NIT = 1,050; NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Questions: How much do you trust journalists when they report about organisations? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). How much do you trust these communicators? Items: Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations; Marketing and sales representatives of organisations. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). (Strong) trust of the general population in: Overall Journalists that report about organisations 17.1% 12.7% 20.7% 16.8% Communication and public relations practitioners 8.3% 12.3% 16.1% 12.2% Marketing and sales representatives 8.6% 10.7% 16.0% 11.7%
  • 17. 17 Trust in top management, ordinary employees, external experts, fans, customers, and activists Information, rumours and comments about organisations are often spread by people who are not acting in a professional communication role. This includes leaders of an organisation as well as all employees who interact with stakeholders or communicate on social media. They act on behalf of the organisation. But they are seldom trained, mostly not aware of public opinion building, and rarely classified as wordsmiths and spin doctors. There are also numerous external actors who can speak on behalf of an organisation, even if nobody internally is involved or knows about it. Examples are supportive customers (fans, brand ambassadors), experts in the field (professors, consultants), or activists with quite different interests, but partly overlapping agendas or goals. Their insights and comments might be as relevant as the news produced by professional journalists, especially if they are spread over social media and if they reach important audiences. These stakeholders can act as advocates for organisations. Many argue that PR and communication professionals should focus on enabling those groups, e.g. employees, corporate influencers and business unit leaders (Andersson, 2019; Heide et al., 2018; Niederhäuser & Rosenberger, 2018), and that they should align with external parties who can reach out to critical stakeholders. However, this only makes sense if semi- professional advocates enjoy more trust than professional communicators – which was not known until now. This section reports what we have found out.
  • 18. 18 External experts are the most trusted advocates in the general population 38% 19% 18% 17% 12% External supporters/fans or customers/clients of organisations #2 Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda #4 Other employees/members of organisations #3 External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) #1 Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) #5 TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: The public discourse about organisations (companies, non-profits, governments, political parties, etc.) is not only shaped by journalists, but also by those who speak on behalf of an organisation. How much do you trust these communicators? Item wording see above. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 4-5.
  • 19. 19 Public trust in organisational advocates differs across Europe: External experts are most trusted in the UK 12% 18% 38% 19% 17% 9% 15% 37% 18% 15% 12% 14% 31% 17% 18% 16% 25% 45% 23% 18% Total Germany Italy UK TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Exact question and item wording see page 18. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 4-5. Highly significant differences between countries (chi-square test, p ≤ 0.01). Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) Other employees/members of organisations External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) External supporters/fans or customers/clients of organisations Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda (Strong) trust of the general population in:
  • 20. 20 Distrust across countries: Germans are more suspicious of top managers, Italians of fans/clients 42% 28% 20% 33% 38% 47% 30% 21% 33% 39% 42% 35% 25% 41% 36% 37% 20% 15% 24% 37% Total Germany Italy UK TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Question: How much do you trust these communicators? Exact question and item wording see page 18. Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 1-2. Highly significant differences between countries (chi-square test, p ≤ 0.01). (Strong) distrust of the general population in: Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) Other employees/members of organisations External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) External supporters/fans or customers/clients of organisations Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda
  • 22. 22 Understanding and assessment of PR activities It’s clear communication and public relations professionals face high levels of distrust. But how does the general population understand PR activities and does this view have any influence on subsequent levels of trust in them? There are different perspectives on PR. Strategic communication scholars and proponents of a managerial approach to public relations (e. g. Falkheimer & Heide, 2017; Nothhaft et al. 2019; Grunig 1992; Tench et al., 2017; Zerfass, 2008) conceptualise PR as communication activities which are deliberately used to serve organisational goals of any kind, e.g. building legitimacy or reputation. Others argue that PR focuses not primarily on communication, but on relationship management between organisations and their stakeholders, aiming at behavioural change (Ledingham & Hung-Baesecke, 2018; Ki et al., 2015). Proponents of rhetorical and dialogical PR theories (Heath & Ihlen, 2018; Kent & Taylor, 2002) make the normative stance that public relations is a form of dialogical engagement, whereby organisations and stakeholders act together “for the good of the community” and “a fully functioning society” (Taylor & Kent, 2014, p. 391). This requires ethical and dialogical communication which brings new arguments into an ongoing discourse. Results from this study demonstrate that the general population has rather fuzzy perceptions of PR activities. None of the theoretical conceptualisations were supported by a majority; each found supporters and opponents. PR is mainly seen as a managerial approach of organisations. The normative perspective does not resonate at all with only 17% of the population believing that PR activities are based on ethical principles and only one quarter assessing it as important for our society. Nevertheless, we found no evidence that different perceptions influence the level of trust in PR and communication practitioners.
  • 23. 23 How the general population perceives the work done by PR practitioners for organisations and society 27% 18% 47% 40% 26% 42% (Strongly) disagree Neutral (Strongly) agree There has been a long debate whether PR professionals serve mainly their own organisation or also the society at large. The public perception is quite clear. Only 20% of the population rate the work of PR professionals as important for their organisations and for society. TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Questions: Thinking of communication and public relations professionals, how much would you agree with these statements? Item: Their work is important for our society. Item: Their work is important for their organisations. Scale 1 (Strongly disagree) – 5 (Strongly agree). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 1-2 (disagree), 3 (neutral) and 4-5 (agree). Important for the society Important for their organisations
  • 24. 24 Only a small part of the general population thinks that PR activities are based on ethical principles 15% strongly agree 12% agree overall sample 14% strongly disagree 27% disagree overall sample 14% 16% 22% 45% 44% 35% TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Questions: Thinking of communication and public relations professionals, how much would you agree with these statements? Item: Their work is based on ethical principles. Scale 1 (Strongly disagree) – 5 (Strongly agree) based on Schauster & Neill (2017). Country percentages: Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 1-2 and 4-5.
  • 25. 25 Fuzzy perceptions about the general goals and essence of PR activities by the general population Foster dialogue One quarter agrees that PR professionals foster dialogue between organisations and those interested in their activities. 26% Build relationships One third agrees that PR professionals build relationships between organisations and their stakeholders. 32% Manage communication More than one third agrees that PR practitioners manage communication activities that help organisations to reach their goals. 36% TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: Thinking of communication and public relations professionals, how much would you agree with these statements? Items cited above. Scale 1 (Strongly disagree) – 5 (Strongly agree). Percentage: Frequency based on scale points 4-5.
  • 26. 26 Public perception on the work of PR professionals 35% 27% 18% 41% 25% 21% 18% 49% 47% 40% 41% 50% 48% 46% 16% 26% 42% 17% 26% 32% 36% I generally trust PR professionals Their work is important for our society Their work is important for their organisations Their work is based on ethical principles They foster dialogue between organisations and those interested in their activities They build relationships between organisations and their stakeholders They manage communication activities that help organisations to reach their goals (Strongly) disagree (1-2) Neutral (3) (Strongly) agree (4-5) TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample). Question: Thinking of communication and public relations professionals, how much would you agree with these statements? Items listed above. Scale 1 (Strongly disagree) – 5 (Strongly agree). Communication and PR practitioners are primarily seen as organisational servants with few ethical principles
  • 27. 27 Public perception on the work of PR professionals Communication professionals in the United Kingdom are trusted and recognised to a higher extent TICS19 © www.euprera.org. NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample). Questions: Thinking of communication and public relations professionals, how much would you agree with these statements? Items listed above. Scale 1 (Strongly disagree) – 5 (Strongly agree). (Strongly) disagree (Strongly) agree Assessments by the general population: Overall Overall I generally trust PR professionals 40.9% 37.0% 27.9% 35.3% 11.2% 12.5% 23.5% 15.6% Their work is important for our society 30.5% 29.7% 21.5% 27.3% 22.7% 23.8% 32.1% 26.1% Their work is important for their organisations 18.4% 21.8% 13.0% 17.8% 42.4% 38.8% 46.0% 42.3% Their work is based on ethical principles 45.0% 44.0% 34.7% 41.3% 13.8% 16.0% 22.1% 17.2% They foster dialogue between organisations and those interested in their activities 22.6% 29.5% 21.5% 24.6% 26.7% 23.2% 26.7% 25.5% They build relationships between organisations and their stakeholders 19.8% 26.0% 16.7% 20.8% 34.4% 26.0% 34.7% 31.7% They manage communication activities that help organisations to reach their goals 17.7% 22.0% 14.7% 18.2% 36.1% 33.1% 39.6% 36.3%
  • 29. 29 What PR professionals know about the general population’s perception of trust in communicators Our representative poll of the general population in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom has unveiled a low level of trust in professional communicators. Intermediaries such as external experts, supporters/fans or customers/clients, ordinary employees/members of an organisation, and even activists are more trusted than journalists, public relations or marketing practitioners and top managers, when they speak about or on behalf of organisations. SR U TT What does this mean for communication and PR professionals? Are they aware of this situation and the growing relevance of organisational advocates beyond the traditional turf of boardrooms and communication or marketing departments? A parallel survey among communication professionals in the three countries investigated how practitioners assess public trust in themselves and in different advocates. Results of both surveys have been compared. They are reported in this section. It is obvious that communication professionals highly overestimate the trust level of the general population in all parties, whereas the level of distrust is underrated. Specifically, leaders of organisations – often actively profiled through CEO positioning (Zerfass et al., 2016) – are less trusted and more distrusted than PR practitioners believe. The relative relevance and overall ranking of different advocates, however, is the same among practitioners and in the general population (see p. 18).
  • 30. 30 Communication practitioners highly overestimate the levels of trust given by the general population 12% 12% 12% 18% 38% 19% 17% 55% 34% 61% 62% 69% 63% 28% Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations Marketing and sales representatives of organisations Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) Other employees of organisations External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) External supporters/fans or customers/clients of organisations Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda Population poll Survey among communication professionals TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample) | N = 494 communication professionals from Germany, Italy and the UK. Question for general population: How much do you trust these communicators? Question for communication professionals: Thinking of your organisation, how much do ordinary people in your country (the general population) trust these communicators? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 4-5. Gap (Ø -35) ∆ -43 ∆ -22 ∆ -49 ∆ -44 ∆ -31 ∆ -44 ∆ -11 (Strong) trust of the general population in:
  • 31. 31 Public distrust in different members and advocates of organisations is underestimated by PR practitioners 38% 47% 42% 28% 20% 33% 38% 12% 23% 12% 6% 6% 5% 31% Communication and public relations practitioners of organisations Marketing and sales representatives of organisations Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) Other employees of organisations External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) External supporters/fans or customers/clients of organisations Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda Population poll Survey among communication professionals TICS19 © www.euprera.org. N = 3,130 adults aged 16-64 in Germany, Italy and the UK (representative sample) | N = 494 communication professionals from Germany, Italy and the UK. Question for general population: How much do you trust these communicators? Question for communication professionals: Thinking of your organisation, how much do ordinary people in your country (the general population) trust these communicators? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 1-2. Gap (Ø 22) ∆ 26 ∆ 24 ∆ 30 ∆ 22 ∆ 14 ∆ 28 ∆ 7 (Strong) distrust of the general population in:
  • 32. 32 Public perception on the work of PR professionals Communication professionals in the UK have the best perception of the general population’s trust level TICS19 © www.euprera.org. General population (POP): NUK = 1,029, NIT = 1,050, NGE = 1,051 adults aged 16-64 (representative sample) | Communication/PR professionals (COM): NUK = 171, NIT = 168, NGE = 155 professionals. Question for general population: How much do you trust these communicators? Question for communication professionals: Thinking of your organisation, how much do ordinary people in your country (the general population) trust these communicators? Scale 1 (Strong distrust) – 5 (Strong trust). Percentages: Frequency based on scale points 1-2 and 4-5. (Strong) distrust (Strong) trust Overall Overall POP COM POP COM POP COM POP COM POP COM POP COM POP COM POP COM Communication and public relations practitioners 41.8% 15.2% 40.6% 11.1% 31.9% 10.4% 38,2% 12.1% 8.3% 50.3% 12.3% 62.1% 16.1% 52.4% 12.2% 55.0% Marketing and sales representatives 49.0% 26.9% 49.9% 19.0% 41.6% 23.8% 46,9% 23.2% 8.6% 31.7% 10.7% 37.9% 16.0% 31.1% 11.7% 33.5% Leaders of organisations (CEOs, board members, top executives) 46.7% 14.5% 42.1% 11.8% 36.6% 9.1% 41,8% 11.7% 8.9% 60.0% 12.1% 64.1% 16.4% 58.5% 12.4% 60.8% Other employees 30.2% 8.3% 35.1% 9.8% 19.6% 1.8% 28,4% 6.5% 14.6% 64.1% 14.1% 51.6% 24.7% 69.5% 17.8% 61.9% External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) 20.9% 4.1% 24.6% 11.1% 14.6% 4.3% 20,1% 6.5% 37.2% 73.8% 31.1% 61.4% 44.6% 72.6% 37.6% 69.3% External supporters/fans or customers/clients 33.3% 6.2% 41.0% 7.2% 24.3% 2.4% 32,9% 5.2% 17.7% 66.2% 16.8% 58.2% 23.3% 65.9% 19.3% 63.4% Activists and other external organisations with their own agenda 39.3% 31.0% 36.3% 23.5% 36.9% 37.8% 37,5% 31.0% 15.3% 27.6% 18.3% 38.6% 17.5% 19.5% 17.1% 28.4% Ø Gap ∆ -22.2 ∆ -25.1 ∆ -16.6 ∆ -21.3 ∆ 37.6 ∆ 36.9 ∆ 30.1 ∆ 34.9
  • 33. 33 Key insights Get a modern PowerPoint Presentation that is beautifully designed. Your Text Here Get a modern PowerPoint Presentation that is beautifully designed. Your Text Here Public relations activities will fail if audiences lack trust in those who talk about or on behalf of organisations. Identifying trusted intermediaries internally and externally is a key challenge for communication and PR practitioners – especially because their own profession, journalists and top managers are all suffering in this respect. ▪ The Trust in Communicators 2019 study, based on a representative poll of the general population in three key European countries, revealed that the trust division between journalists and public relations / communication practitioners is closing. Both professions enjoy a relatively low level of trust (between 8% and 17%, depending on the country). But distrust is relatively high with 34% of adults in Italy distrusting journalists and 42% of Germans distrusting PR practitioners. Journalists are trusted most in Germany and communication practitioners in the United Kingdom. ▪ External experts in the field (e.g. professors, consultants) are clearly the most trusted of all groups that can speak on behalf of an organisation. Regular employees and members of an organisation should be taken into account as well: their level of trust in the general population is quite high, and they are less distrusted than fans/customers or activists. Leaders of organisations and marketing or PR professionals, on the other hand, are less trusted than all other parties in all countries. ▪ The general population lacks a clear understanding of public relations activities and what communication professionals try to achieve in their daily work. On the other hand, communication practitioners overestimate the level of public trust in their country in the organisational realm, and they underrate the distrust in all kinds of advocates.
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  • 36. 36 About the authors and the publisher Dr. Ansgar Zerfass is Professor and Chair of Strategic Communication at Leipzig University, Germany, and Professor of Communication and Leadership at BI Norwegian Business School, Oslo. He serves as Editor of the International Journal of Strategic Communication and Vice Chair of the Public Relations Division of the International Communication Association (ICA). He leads the Global Communication Monitor series with regular surveys of the profession across more than 80 countries on five continents. Research interests: corporate communications, international and comparative communication, measurement and evaluation. zerfass@uni-leipzig.de Dr. Markus Wiesenberg is Postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Strategic Communication at Leipzig University and consultant for start-up and non-profit communications. Beside his PhD project he worked as Project Manager for the European Communication Monitor and as a freelance consultant. As a communication scholar Wiesenberg has been invited to diverse international conferences and lectures. He publishes regularly in academia and practice. Research interests: start-up and non-profit communication, international and comparative communication, trends in strategic communication. markus.wiesenberg@uni-leipzig.de Dr. Ralph Tench is Professor of Communication and Director of Research for Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University in the UK. He is President (2017-2020) of the European Public Relations Research and Education Association (EUPRERA) and a member of the Board of Directors for EUPRERA (2013-2017). He is a member of European Communication Monitor research team since 2018 and leads national and international funded projects from the private sector, the EU and public research councils. He has written and edited 26 books; published over 30 academic journal papers; presented worldwide more than 60 peer reviewed papers. Research interests: business responsibility, health communication and strategic organizational communication. r.tench@leedsbeckett.ac.uk Dr. Stefania Romenti is Associate Professor of Corporate Communication and Public Relations at IULM University where she is also Chair of the MSc Program in Strategic Communication. She is Adjunct Professor at IE Business School in Madrid, where she teaches Measuring Intangibles and KPI’s in Corporate Communication. She is Delegate of the Rector for Sustainability and Director of the Research Center for Strategic communication. Professor Romenti is author of more than 100 publications (among journal articles, books, edited books, chapters). Research interests: Measurement and Evaluation of communication results, Reputation, Stakeholder engagement and management, Relationship management, Crisis communication, CSR Communication. stefania.romenti@iulm.it This research project has been organised within the framework of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA). It is an autonomous organisation with nearly 500 members from 40 countries interested in advancing academic research and knowledge in strategic communication. Several cross-national and comparative research and education projects are organised by affiliated universities, and a highly regarded academic congress is staged each autumn at varying locations. www.euprera.org
  • 37. 37 Imprint Published by: EUPRERA European Public Relations Education and Research Association, Brussels, www.euprera.org This study was facilitated by: Cision Insights (www.cision.com) and Fink & Fuchs (www.finkfuchs.de/en) Citation of this publication (APA style): Zerfass, A., Wiesenberg, M., Tench, R., & Romenti, S. (2019). Trust in communicators. How the general population trusts journalists, public relations professionals, marketeers and other communicators: A comparative study in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Brussels: EUPRERA. Short quotation to be used in legends (charts/graphics): Source: Trust in Communicators 2019 study (www.euprera.org). Copyright © October 2019 by the authors for the whole document and all parts, charts and data. All rights reserved. The material presented in this document represents empirical insights and interpretation by the research team. It is intellectual property subject to international copyright. Chart design and graphics provided by allppt.com. Permission is gained to quote from the content of this survey and reproduce any graphics, subject to the condition that the source including the internet address is clearly quoted and depicted on every chart. It is not allowed to use this data to illustrate promotional material for commercial services. Publishing this PDF document on websites run by third parties and storing this document in databases or on platforms which are only open to subscribers / members or charge payments for assessing information is prohibited. The report is available for free at www.slideshare.net/communicationmonitor.eu and http://bit.ly/TICS19 – please use a link to that website. Contacts: General information and Germany: Dr. Markus Wiesenberg (☏ +49 341 97 35040 | tics19@euprera.org) Italy: Prof. Dr. Stefania Romenti (☏ +39 289 1412 755 | stefania.romenti@iulm.it) United Kingdom: Prof. Dr. Ralph Tench (☏ +44 113 81 27539 | r.tench@leedsbeckett.ac.uk)
  • 38. 38 #TICS19 © October 2019 – www.euprera.org – www.cision.com – www.finkfuchs.de/en