Skepticism is rife and trust is not easily won but your people can help

Creating the high-trust organization
Creative Commons License photo credit: opensourceway

Earlier today Edelman, the global PR form, launched the results of it’s 2012 Trust Barometer. According to Edelman:

“This year’s survey is bigger than ever before, with 30,000 people questioned in 25 countries. The Barometer reveals the state of Trust in business and institutions.”

I’ve written about this survey before in Your Internal Brand is One of Your Most Important Marketing Tools and refer to Edelman’s survey results in my eBooks (You can check them out for free here and here).

However, reading through the survey results today there were three things that jumped out at me and have implications for building customer and employee engagement:

  1. Skepticism is rife and trust is not easily won. The majority of people need to see something 5 or 6 time before they start to believe and trust in it. Therefore, the need for consistency of message, to keep showing up with the same message and via a number of sources is key to building trust
  2. Skepticism requires repetition

  3. People trust people like them. The survey shows that, whilst academics and company technical experts continue to be broadly trusted, people are more likely to trust ‘People like them’ than the CEO. Given the flow of trust away from the boardroom businesses should work with their teams to give them the freedom, ability and tools to reach out, speak with and engage their customers. Doing this just might prove to be less controlling and more engaging for them too.
  4. People trust people like them

  5. Many business are failing to meet changing expectations. When asked what elements are important to building trust – listening to customers, high quality products or services, treating employees well and customers ahead of profits – topped the poll as being important to business. However, the survey results also show that the general population, whilst considering these things as important, say that most businesses are failing to meet their expectations and need to work harder. For many companies this will mean one of two things: 1. They need to start really doing what they say they are going to do and making sure their customers understand what they are doing; and 2. They need to start talking to customers to get a better understanding of their expectations and how they can meet them. Because if they don’t then someone else will.
  6. Businesses are failing to meet changing expectations

Note: Whilst these are the results from the Global survey, I looked at the UK-specific results too and they follow the same trends.

If you want to read more, you head over to the Edelman site and download the Executive Summary here or view the presentation on Slideshare here.

Do take the opportunity to check out the survey results for yourself or share your thoughts on my conclusions in the comments below.

11 comments On Skepticism is rife and trust is not easily won but your people can help

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  • Spot on with this write-up, I really suppose this website wants far more consideration. I’ll most likely be again to read far more, thanks for that info.

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  • Interesting article Adrian, it is fascinating that the voice of the CEO and government official dropped so markedly. Sad that we don’t trust those in power. What does it say about trust and engagement if we aren’t prepared to engage with those at the top?


    • Hi James,
      Indeed, a sad state of affairs. But I’m not sure it says that we don’t want to engage with those at the top but, rather, we don’t trust many of those at the top right now. Why? Track record, saying one thing and then doing another, changing the story all of the time, belief that they will do the right thing, really understand and share my concerns etc etc. Many potential reasons.

      However, if those at the top want to engage they need to recognise that the trust relationships is broken and needs fixing.


  • Hello Adrian

    Thank you for drawing my attention to this paper and publishing the interesting graphs. It is interesting to see the collapse in the trusworthiness of institutions and the Tops.

    Is that really a surprise given the financial crisis, the fact that the bankers are doing splendidly only because govts have made a huge transfer of wealth from ordinary citizens (taxpayers) to the already fabulous bankers! Then we have the flagrant example of deceit, selfishness, moral cowardice as evidenced in the UK by the Iraq invasion, the MPs expenses, Prime Ministers doing all they can to ingratiate themselves with the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the News International scandal…..

    What I do find interesting is that the public still perceives academics and experts to be credible. That is really some assumption! And thus provides an opening to businesses to exploit if they are not exploiting it already. I suspect that they are as academic researchers and experts also have patrons and these patrons have to be kept happy.

    Personally, I turn to the ‘ordinary man’, family, friends and colleagues – their personal experiences. And for me that is one of the most valuable aspects of the internet, user generated content and social networks!


    • Hi Maz,
      Thanks for your comment. You are right when you point to recent events and how they have contributed to a fall in trust for those in govt and at the top of large firms. However, i think technical expertise and academia are still two bastions of trust due to their knowledge and, probably, what assumptions people make about what drives them and their objectivity. What do you think?


  • Your article is so right on! When I started out – No one would trust me! I would have to bend over backwords to get there business. This year it is a lot different. People say “I have heard of you!”
    Guess it pats to be patient!

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