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Why I Didn’t Have to Sell My Soul to Leave News

When I decided to leave the world of news – again – for public relations, I knew what I’d hear from friends and colleagues: “Going to the dark side, eh?”

I was right. Though I think people who say that have the wrong idea.

Working as the managing editor of The Journal Record for two years put me on the front row of business and politics in Oklahoma City. I saw great drama: Entrepreneurs with big ideas and the drive to turn them into reality. Figurative and literal earth-shaking events in the energy industry. Political careers peaking and crumbling. Changes in practice and perception across the statewide economy.

And when the opportunity to join Candor came along, I saw it as a chance to participate more directly in those activities.

Some think PR agencies push fluff without regard for truth. But I’ve never seen it that way. Professional communicators take great pride in helping people get their messages to the masses, and we know it’s never worth it to risk our reputations by being dishonest. You may not always agree with our clients, but when you see something in public discourse that fits your view, a professional communicator probably helped get it out there.

We’re not trying to steal money that used to go to mass-media advertising. We help people and organizations find the best, most efficient ways to share their stories with their audiences.
Sometimes that means a high-impact event or a buzzworthy social media post. It often means keeping websites stocked with information that gives a realistic view of an issue or a company.

At Candor, it also means sometimes telling a client that he or she needs to rethink a concept or move in a new direction. Sometimes it even means declining to take on work if we don’t think we see eye-to-eye with a prospect about how to ethically and responsibly act.

A public relations and business consulting firm doesn’t have the same watchdog responsibility as a journalistic operation. But we do hold ourselves to high standards. The focus of my work shifted, but I won’t have to give up any of my dignity or ideals.

Some have said I left the forces of good. I see a chance to shine a spotlight on the businesses and causes that make our community better.

Five Tips from the News Media: How to Increase Trust

Americans have definite views about news and who we rely on to deliver it. As a broadcast journalist who anchored news and sports programs for forty years, I know how important it is to act with integrity and show respect for viewers and listeners. They are quite particular about whom they invite into their homes each day through television or radio, and wise journalists take that relationship seriously if they want to last in the news business.

During my career, including 25 years reporting and delivering news on Oklahoma’s statewide public television network, I knew I was being judged by how I conducted myself every day and whether viewers trusted the news and information we presented. Trust takes much effort to build and can quickly be lost.

A recent study by the Media Insight Project, a partnership of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, bears this out. It shows news consumers – the people who watch news on TV, listen to it on the radio or read it in newspapers or online – pay more attention to news from organizations they trust.

The report focuses on traditional media journalism, but contains lessons each of us can learn to become more trusted – and more valued – communicators. The study shows dedication to these five principles will increase trustworthiness:

  • Eighty-five percent of adults say accuracy is a critical reason they trust a news source. Getting the story right is the most important factor in gaining trust, regardless of the topic. Providing in-depth information and reliable data increases perceptions of accuracy.

  • Consumers want their news fast…and complete. Seventy-six percent said having the latest details is critical. Organizations that are quick to answer key questions and deliver important details are seen as more trustworthy.

  • Familiarity and openness in reporting methods increases communicator’s trust scores. News consumers are more likely to trust reporters and news outlets they know. Explaining how information was gathered and reported boosts confidence in reporters and builds trust.

  • News consumers appreciate diverse viewpoints presented fairly. They also want to see stories about people like themselves. Finding the right balance of delivering content they can relate to while exposing them to other ideas shows the communicator respects them and appreciates fair play. Most people like that.

  • Overall, the research shows presentation ranks lower than other key trust factors, but Americans definitely want information that is easily understood. Seventy-two percent said it is very important news be concise and to the point while 67 percent say in-depth coverage is extremely or very important. Entertainment and convenience also improve the level of trust in presentation. Increasingly, ease of navigation on a website or app matters to digital users who want to be able to multi-task while they take in news content.

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a journalist is hearing from people who appreciate what you do and how you have made a difference in their lives. Think how powerful that kind of testimonial would be for your business or organization.

Just as news consumers are loyal to journalists they trust, clients and customers typically prefer to work with people they know, respect and trust. So, as you develop your own communications plans, remember, focusing on trust will help your business rise above the crowd and lead to rewarding long-term relationships. Make building trust a top priority in your personal and professional strategy and you will see positive results.