The Trust Barometer

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For 18 years, Edelman has surveyed rises and falls in public confidence and trust in government, media, business and NGOs across 28 countries. In this Keynote Session, Stephen Kehoe, Global Chairman of Reputation, provided an overview of the results of the 2018 Trust Barometer, which noted extreme changes in public trust stemming from the toxicity of fake news and the impact of major geo-political events, including political change in the United States and China.

2018 will be known as the year for the battle of truth.

The difference between 2017 and 2018 – they are seeing virtually no recovery in brand trust – in 2017 they saw the biggest drop in trust with both the general public and the informed public.

The biggest and honestly scariest drop in trust in both general and informed public was in the United States driven primarily through a loss in trusting government and that’s driving trust down in other institutions.

In the US there’s a real polarization in trust between Trump supporters and Clinton supporters. Clinton supporters have gained trust in the media whereas Trump supports have declined in trust.

Whereas in a country like China, there’s been a huge rise in trust across all institutions. Trust in Japan decreases generally from 2017 and 2018 across government, business and the media with the biggest drops around trust in the media and trust in government amongst the informed public. What’s interesting here is that Japan actually bucks the trend of a decline in trust in NGO’s around the world but in Japan that’s actually increased over the last year.

So with all of this data, how do we make sense of it all? Without trust more and more consumers will choose to stop buying goods from companies they distrust.

“63% of people say that a good reputation may get me to try a product, but unless I trust the company behind the product, I will soon stop buying for it”

What business need to do to rebuild trust? The number trust building mandate, the number 1 expectation from people around the world in the media is they will be a guardian of information quality, they will tell the truth, they will tell the facts – that’s the #1 expectation of the media. Only 36% of people say that media is living up to that expectation. It’s no surprise we are seeing such a decline in trust in media organizations.

As a result of people not being able to trust the media, 59% of people saying, “I no longer know what is true and what is not true”, 56% of people saying, “I don’t know which politicians to trust”, and 42% of people say, “I don’t know which companies or brands to trust.” So as a “result of my distrust in the media, I have low levels of confidence now in other institutions and I’m concerned that I don’t know who to turn to for the truth.” The public expects employees to pressure management to engage in policy debates.

In summary, here are some of the things that Stephen reiterated toward the end of the session.

  • Go beyond the business. The company that doesn’t think about engaging with their society, the company that doesn’t think about who their stakeholders are, what are their expectations are and then what are the kinds of things companies can do to demonstrate that they are meeting those expectations over the long term, the data suggest they will fail in the court of consumer opinion.
  • Localize trust building measures.
  • Speak up on key issues – find out what the employee base expects of the higher ups in the company.
  • Inform and engage – think about factual information.
  • Communicate through trusted voices – the mix of people used to convey the information is important.
  • Activate the entire organization – employees are important. They will be the company’s ambassadors, they will be your greatest fans if you empower them to be.

You can find the full documentation of the Edleman Trust Barometer here.

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