PR trust masters: information control is out

Posted on: March 6, 2011

Edelman have been running their annual survey of global trust for eleven years. Their Trust Barometer “gauges attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs and media across 23 countries” and is famous in Public Relations (PR) circles.

This year, aside from insights on most trusted (technology, motoring) and least trusted (financial services – no surprises there) sectors – their findings include a compelling graphic on what institutions must now do to become trustworthy:

This, from a well-established PR firm (2011 full report PDF) demonstrates how our new technological-economic condition is shifting business practice.

PR and the new institutional information ecology

Edelman’s replacement of ‘Control information’ by ‘Transparency’ and ‘Engagement’ to gain trust illustrates business practice alterations that chime with Yochai Benkler’s recent work on ‘the memetic economy.’

In this Benkler explores how information as control was developed to mitigate the endemic complexity of the industrial revolution, but that internet communications brings the opportunity for a new institutional information ecology.

Benkler theorises what this means for cultural information production, human creativity, autonomy and democracy. But Edelman’s commercially-minded global perspective shows how related conclusions (which might once have been reserved to tentative Corporate Social Responsibility programmes) are entering mainstream thinking for industry, with Public Relations professionals advising against information control.

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