Do Mixed Messages Dilute Trust?

After reading the survey results in this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, in addition to  media coverage, I wonder if the survey confirms that mixed messages dilute trust. In the US, where trust is down across the board according to the survey, the well-coordinated messages from the Republicans, Tea Party and conservative pundits contradict everything stated by the Obama administration and his supporters in the media.

For instance, the arguments for creating an affordable healthcare system for all were rejected by people who don’t want their tax dollars to pay for someone else’s well-being. Canada’s  public healthcare system was also falsely presented as irreparably broken and used as a negative example of exactly what Americans want to avoid.

So did this contentious debate in addition to other partisan messages make it harder for Americans to trust anyone? Maybe.

And what about China? Trust in government increased from 74% to 88%. As far as I know, this emerging world leader’s state-controlled media helps the government deliver consistent messages. There aren’t as many mixed political statements, I imagine.

So why is trust in Russia so low at 39% this year versus  38% in 2010? After all, the Russian government also controls the media for the most part. Perhaps it has to do with Vladimir Putin’s self-appointed role as Prime Minister which dilutes President Dmitry Medvedev’s authority. Maybe Russians aren’t sure who’s in charge or maybe they don’t trust a political system that allows self-appointments.

As any communications pro will tell you, message consistency is key. Keep it simple and ensure you understand the needs of your clients, customers, etc. before you say and do anything.

Honest transparency and credibility also help.  But apparently even consistent messaging can overcome the lack of these two things, at least when it comes to governments.


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