A post-trust world makes for strange bedfellows

piedChris Piedmont, one of Peppercomm’s rising superstars, and Rachael Collins, a new associate from Australia, recently attended an Arthur W. Page Center dinner in which the subjects of fake news, life in a post truth world and why the media and PR worlds should unite to advocate for authenticity, transparency and fact-based storytelling were discussed. Here is their first-hand account…..

When’s the last time you can remember the media and PR industries uniting to advocate for a common cause? Hint: pigs flew, we still sent press releases by fax and Republicans and Democrats worked together.

At the recent Arthur W. Page Center Awards, emcee Bill Nielsen made a call to action for journalists, communicators and those in-between to unite in the name of integrity in public communication. With the advertising industry’s Ad Council in mind, he called for an alliance of the two camps in the communications industry to focus on educating the public about what really is a fact. Page Honoree and former executive vice president of public relations at AT&T Dick Martin also declared, “media literacy may be the social issue of our time; addressing it is in our society’s own interest.”

Martin is right. As communicators, we are society’s information gatekeepers and have a responsibility to uphold and defend the truth. It is up to us to honor the facts and ensure the public – our most important constituent – can make a determination based on the facts. If we arm the public with correct information, only then can the wheels of our democracy turn and our society function at its highest potential.

Media and PR have more in common than we often think, and it’s time to put our unique skill sets to work. Honoree Alan Murray, chief content officer at Time, Inc. and editor-in-chief of Fortune Magazine, reminded Page Center Awards attendees that both journalists and communications pros are “trading the same currency: facts.” We might each tell a different narrative based on the facts we have, but at the end of the day, the facts are still the facts.

Page Center advisory board member and former senior communications executive at ITT and FedEx, Tom Martin noted that journalists and PR pros “each have a job to do” presenting information to our audiences in “authentic and truthful ways.” He continued, “when both sides do their jobs well, an informed public is the ultimate beneficiary.”

With information accessible in the palm of our hands, and the news cycle moving from 24 hours to 24 seconds, we cannot sacrifice facts for speed. With continuing assaults on “fake news” and an increasingly skeptical public, it’s imperative that commitment to the truth remain. As another honoree Ann Barklew, founding general manager/senior partner of FleishmanHillard, said, “don’t look around, away, or beyond the facts; recognize them, nothing more or less.”

Journalists have already started to fight back against this assault on facts. Media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post have all adjusted marketing efforts to highlight their commitment to the truth. The New York Times Oscar ad is just one such high profile example. Now, PR must join the fold. Together, we must form – and implement – a strategy that benefits the Fourth Estate, PR and society as a whole.

Count us in. This initiative is too important to let the idea fizzle out – we must make it happen: journalists and communicators together. Pick up your pen and start writing. There is work to do.

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