It’s hardly a secret that Brian Williams and NBC are in trouble — more than 46 percent of voters in our joint TVNewser poll last week said “his career is over.”
Today, headlines in The New York Times and PR Week noted that Williams had lost his “lofty spot on a trustworthiness scale.” We wanted to know more, so we spoke to Matt Delzell, managing director of the talent practice at The Marketing Arm, the company behind the research.
A curious fact: the name atop the newly updated “Celebrity DBI” list is none other than Tom Hanks.
Some other findings:
- Brian Williams went from #23 to #835 on the list of most trusted Americans
- He was the list’s top newsman; that spot is now occupied by Robin Roberts
- On the influencer scale, Williams went from #57 to #397, tied with Giselle Bundchen and former Colts coach Tony Dungy
- In terms of general “appeal,” Williams fell more than 1,200 spots; his current contemporaries are Dave Matthews and David Beckham
As The Marketing Arm’s managing director Robert Familetti told our colleague Brian Flood, “We haven’t seen a drop like this since Tiger Woods.” Williams is currently about as trustworthy as…the old guy on Duck Dynasty.
Matt Delzell isn’t surprised, though. He says:
“You may argue that it’s ‘unfair and judgmental’ when a guy makes a mistake, gets lambasted, and sees his public trust rankings take a nose dive. But the numbers don’t lie; that’s what the American public thinks.”
“Williams is in the business of reporting facts, and the act of making a false statement on-air is an enormous mistake. I’m certain that he understands the gravity of it…but the trust drop is not surprising in his business.”
The public holds media personalities to a higher standard
The relationship that the public has with newscasters is not the same as the one it has with celebrities like Hanks, because trust is “what they build their reputations on.” Delzell notes that viewers “are loyal to the people they watch” and that they trust these news anchors because they expect “that they will get factual news and will not be misled.”
Tiger Woods set a very negative precedent in the world of Celebrity DBI — one that The Marketing Arm execs were “hoping not to see again for a long time.” Delzell says, however, that the act of “saying something false on-air” made the betrayal of trust more significant in Williams’ case, especially because “he was considered the most trusted” in the media world.
Is Williams the new Tiger Woods?
Celebrities can “bounce back” from such hits to their reputations, but Delzell says “this is a different ballgame.” The most significant past drops have come from athletes, but “it’s much different for Williams” because, while people liked Kobe Bryant and Lance Armstrong, “their careers have never been about trust.”
Why do we trust actors so much?
“It’s interesting,” says Delzell, that the act of playing “hundreds of fictional characters” could help Tom Hanks build up a level of “personal” trust among Americans.
“We all wish that politicians were in the top ten, because they’re the ones driving this country. But they’re nowhere close. It’s a sad state of affairs.”
According to The Marketing Arm, these are the ten most trusted public names in America:
1. Tom Hanks
2. Kate Middleton
3. Dr. Lisa Masterson
4. Morgan Freeman
5. Chelsey Sullenberger
6. Betty White
7. Norm Abram
8. Mike Holmes
9. Bill Gates
10. Dr. Oz
A sad state of affairs indeed.