Remember that post from a couple of days ago about what higher ed marketers and brand managers could learn from the way the then-presumptive president-elect, Hillary Clinton, ran her campaign? Scratch that. Turns out the guy whose article I shared had no idea what he was talking about. Full of hubris and arrogance, that guy. (Same as this guy, until this morning.)
Today, as we ponder the future of a world with incoming President Donald Trump, let’s revisit a point PR guy Richard Edelman made last spring about the erosion of trust in traditional institutions — one of four revolutions in human-institution interactions.
From my May 6, 2016 post:
Since the 2008 recession, trust in institutions — business, government, the media, etc. — has suffered. Edelman points to a widening gap between elites and the general public when it comes to how much these two groups trust institutions. The elites place more trust in these institutions than the masses. Nowhere has this trust gap played out more than in our presidential election campaign.
“This is one explanation for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders,” says Edelman. “The classic pyramid of influence is flipped on its head, with influence now resting with the mass population even as power remains with the elites.”
As a result, “The government leader and CEO are being supplanted by a ‘person like me’ as one of the most credible sources of information. Brands must recognize that the predominant axis of communications is now horizontal (peer-to-peer), not vertical (talk at) — that worked only in an era of belief.”
Implications for higher education. This idea of a trust gap also helps to put into context the spread of protests on college campuses last fall related to racial tension and other issues. The elites of higher education — college presidents and, by extension, the administration — as students banded together to protest social injustice. Beyond the protests, there are trust gaps between faculty and “the administration” (what one author calls “administrative imperialism”) on how the academy should be governed and managed, and there is continuing public skepticism about the value of a college education in an era of rising tuition. How will this shift in the trust equation affect our “official” marketing and communications approaches? How can colleges and universities adopt a horizontal, peer-to-peer approach that will resonate with customers in an era of distrust? Most importantly, how can a university administration take this trust gap into consideration in its planning and execution of plans, and what role should the marketing and communications staff play?
There’s a lesson here, if we heed it. And last night’s election of Donald Trump as president of the United States shows us that the revolution is here.