A Matter of Trust

At the end of January, in partnership with the FT, Edelman launched their 2011 Trust Barometer which analyses how the world’s citizens view and of course trust their governments, businesses and media organisations.

According to the Edelman Barometer; “In a year marred by corporate crises and financial turmoil for European governments, trust in business and government showed marked resilience. Trust in business saw a two-point global increase, surging in Brazil, rising in Germany, and holding steady in China and India. In the UK, trust in business remained stable at 44 percent. In the Trust composite score, an average of a country’s trust in all four institutions (business, government, NGOs, and media), the U.S. fell to fourth from the bottom, while three years ago, it was in the top four. The UK ranks second from the bottom, jointly with Russia and ahead of Ireland.” The 8 page executive summary can be found here: http://edelmaneditions.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/trust-executive-summary-final.pdf

There are a number of interesting findings in the survey;
Firstly that UK-business trust remained stable, you might have expected the tail-end of the financial crisis and the BP oil spill, to name just a few examples, to have knocked people’s trust in business but it would appear not (the US on the other hand, dropped down 8 points after a 18 point spike last year).
Secondly is that government trust has remained low in the UK and US, a factor which leaves both countries languishing at the bottom of the index (Brazil is now at the top of the index having shot up from position 8 last year) next to Russia.
Thirdly, trust in the media crept up slightly on the year but had a big drop in the UK and US, with the report stating that people now need to hear something six or more times to believe it – no wonder the 24 hour News channels seem to repeat headlines parrot fashion some days!
The way that company spokespeople are now being viewed and trusted by the public is also interesting. “Trust in all credentialed spokespeople is higher this year, signalling a desire for authority and accountability… CEOs are now in the top tier of trustworthy spokespeople”. This would suggest that it’s more important than ever to make sure your CEO is both authoritative and a good communicator. But the Edelman research went on to ask who should speak for a company in a challenging time and the conclusion is that a number of spokespeople from the CEO to Chairman and other relevant technical experts all have a role during a crisis.
Finally, the barometer looked at “whether trust can diminish the impact bad news has on a company. The answer is yes. 57 percent will believe negative information about a company they do not trust after hearing it just once or twice. When a company is trusted however, only 25 percent will believe negative news after hearing it once or twice”. The suggestion is that a company would do well to build up their ‘trust bank account’ in the good times so they can make the most of it during difficult/crisis times.

While there are of course many different reasons why companies and national governments may go up or down in popularity, it is important to realise the value of trust. It is not something that can be created overnight, though it can be lost even more swiftly. Working on both your communicators and your reputation during the good times, can do wonders to shield you during the bad times and all companies and governments would do well to remember this.

Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – February 2011

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