Should We Even Strive To Be Trusted?

Great post yesterday by Gerald Baron. He brought up something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: trust. So many of our trusted figureheads have failed us in that charge or have been smeared enough that we question whether our trust in them is deserved anymore.

As someone still new to the communications and public information fields, I try to read everything I can about succeeding and have found that every single tip starts with, “establish and maintain trust.” I question whether that’s even possible anymore, though. No matter how above board we are, how saintly, how deserving of people’s trust we are, what’s to stop someone from smearing that trustworthiness in order to score a cheap political point. I’m sure you can think of dozens of examples demonstrating just that.

And I think that’s an important point. We caution young folks like myself that trust takes a lifetime to build and a second to lose. Like the only way our trustworthiness can be affected is by our personal failures, and not by some competing agency, government regulator, political interest group or other interested party.

Earlier I talked about how people today are influenced, increasingly by their personal networks, not by those trusted talking heads and government folks. Not by us. Increasingly, the public is becoming even hostile to government communications.

Given how vital trust is to our work, how easy it is to lose it, and how it’s less and less effective, how much effort should we spend to build that trust? Mind you, I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to be a trustful source of information, but given how critical it seems to be to what we do, and how difficult to impossible it is to do well… It just seems like this is a place where a devil’s advocate might be helpful.

So, I ask you, are we moving into an age where government communicators can no longer count on trust as a part of our toolbox? Should that matter to us? What should we do to take the place of trust in this new world?