By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the news. The federal government has been caught red-handed snooping through your cell phone calls and your internet interactions. I’m sure that by the time this publishes, there will be further revelations and much blame, laid at the feet of just about everyone including the White House, Congress, whistleblowers and the American public.
While the topic concerns me greatly, that’s not the facet of this absolute disaster I think is relevant to you all. (I plan to conveniently ignore the legality or illegality of the topic today.) For us and our ilk, I think this classic saying best describes what’s happening now:
Trust takes years to build, but seconds to destroy.
And unfortunately for many of us who work in government communications, I worry that the public will concentrate on the first part of that description of us (government) rather than the second (communicators) in light of this most recent, and latest in a series of unhappy events.
I mean, it’s not like we’re that highly trusted now, right? According to the worldwide, annual Edelman Trust Barometer, the US government is trusted by less than half of its public. You think this disaster will help?
What do we do when we have no trust left? This is not your fault, or my fault. (I check the logs, no one from the White House or Congress reads this blog. Hi NSA!) But we are the ones that have to deal with the fallout. We’re the ones who shout life-saving advice and recommendations into the ether, with nothing more than the cloak of, “they do this job because they are true believers; it’s certainly not for the money,” to protect us from the liars, the sycophants, the paranoid and the deniers. What do we do when that last shred of trust is gone?
Years we’ve spent building trust and relationships and good vibes, only to be painted over by the broad stroke of a brush meant for someone else. Someone who stepped too far, someone who took a bit too much, someone who is not us.
I don’t have an answer. All I have is the heavy sigh of a government employee who has seen this show before, who is too tired of fighting upstream every day just to do good in the world. What do we do when all that we’ve ever had going for us is gone?