If our collective COVID-19 experience has taught us one thing, it may be this: when experts talk, people listen. (Whether or not they choose to believe what they hear will be debated elsewhere and by others.) As a public relations agency specializing in the promotion of ideas, opinions and expertise, we are big believers in the power of thought leadership to help – as famous mountaineering guide Anatoli Boukreev would say – “offer my expertise and experience for hire in order to help a group of people reach the summit.”

With so many of us listening to and relying on expertise to guide our thinking and decisions these days, we commissioned a research project with the help of Researchscape to uncover current opinions and perceptions about the value of expertise. Are more people looking to thought leaders and authorities to guide them to the proverbial summit – whether that’s in relation to the decisions they make about life and family, work and business or both? Here’s what we know.

We Need to Trust the Experts

Our survey posed five questions, each designed to determine the current perceived value of expertise in general, and whether reliance on the advice of outside experts is increasing, decreasing or remains unchanged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant challenges it continues to bring forth. Key findings include:

  • While the majority (60%) of respondents trust experts about the same as they did five years ago, a quarter of respondents put less trust in experts today while just 16% put more trust in them.
  • Nearly one third (29%) shared how their experience with COVID-19 has decreased their faith in experts. At the same time, a quarter of respondents reported the pandemic has increased their level of trust
  • Word of mouth matters! Nearly half of our respondents reported feeling the information they share and gather among peers on social media is as or more reliable than the advice they hear from experts

Clearly, there’s work to be done to increase trust in outside experts and authorities. To meet this challenge, we believe strongly that thought leaders need more opportunities to increase awareness for their work and perspectives. With the media landscape dominated by COVID-19 news and conferences shifting from in-person events to virtual, we have gained a strong sense for the kind of expertise and messaging that are in demand today. The current realities have also forced us to rethink and bolster our commitment to “job one” in effective, results-producing PR: messaging strategy – for which the key ingredients continue to be provocative, counter-intuitive and surprising.

Are you ready to refine your PR strategy to leverage your expertise in the current environment and build greater trust among your core audiences? We’d love to hear from you!

With more than a decade at Stern, Ned has had the opportunity to counsel – and learn from – some of the brightest minds in business. A lifelong student, he is always searching for new ways to hone his craft by applying insights and ideas from outside sources. He says inspiration can come from anywhere in the world – from his young children to emerging start-ups to more established brands – which he constantly draws on to infuse creativity into client programming. As vice president, his pragmatic leadership style combines with strategic thinking to effectively connect clients with top-tier media, conferences and industry influencers. If he hadn’t answered the call to become a communications pro, you might have found him as a carpenter crafting wood furnishings and cabinetry.