That is the question posed after an interesting survey was released by the Associated Press late last year. The poll found that Americans are becoming more suspicious of each other in everyday life, reducing the key "social trust" that is necessary for a well functioning society. This suspicion and lack of trust makes a companyís public relations strategy more important than ever.

According to some sociologists, we are becoming less social and more solitary. Instead of joining bowling leagues and Elks lodges, we are staying home and watching TV. According to others, itís the realization of a lack of social equity among Americans, with envy displacing empathy and trust. Others believe that itís a feeling that we have lost control over our environment, and that we can no longer trust strangers because we hear so many bad stories.

No matter the reason, an untrusting public is going to make it even more difficult for brands to overcome crises and maintain brand reputation. Cynicism is difficult to alleviate under normal circumstances, and if you are fighting both rumors and an increasingly cynical public, it becomes even more critical.

Companies that carefully build a sense of trust over time, by communicating effectively and building a strong reputation in the community, can build a foundation that will make it easier to overcome a potential crisis of confidence when a negative news story breaks. In many cases today, itís not a particular company that gets injured by bad press, it can be an entire industry. A strong history of proactive communication can help separate your company from the herd and even gain more trust during a media crisis.