Trust is coming back, says Edelman

Updated on July 30, 2009

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In January, PR firm Edelman published their 2009 Trust Barometer survey of trust and credibility in business and government (PDF download), an annual survey conducted in 20 countries.

The global picture six months ago was, broadly speaking, one of pessimism and distrust almost across the board in business and government. It showed a snapshot picture of people’s opinions when they were asked in December 2008 what they thought, reflecting sentiment at that time about what had been going on in the world during 2008, events that very clearly shaped near-universal negative views.

Seven months on, what does the picture look like? Edelman has some compelling answers to that question in a mid-year trust report update, published today, showing a change in the picture across six of the countries surveyed last December – the USA, the UK, France, Germany, India and China.

In direct relation to the global economic crisis and poor corporate behaviours that influenced so many opinions – think of bankers’ bonuses, investor fraud on a massive scale, bank bailouts and CEO payoffs – one element in this mid-year update that especially caught my eye is what people said would make them more likely to place their trust in business and government again:

edelmantrust09cleaninghouse

Actions pay off

Companies that have repaid bailout or loan money to the government, reduced CEO and executive pay, or fired non-performing management teams are more trusted by eight out of 10 informed publics (figure 3). However business still has work to do: Only 6% in six countries describe the reputation of large global businesses as "excellent" and 52% say companies haven’t managed business operations well enough to ensure they survive the global economic crisis.

The Financial Times has a good summary of the main points of the mid-year report, saying that public faith in business returns:

[…] The important headline is that trust in business has partly recovered. In the six major economies – the US, the UK, France, Germany, China and India – surveyed in late May and early June, 52 per cent of respondents said they trusted business, up from 46 per cent six months earlier and just two percentage points behind its 2008 position.

Every sector saw some improvement except media, which has now snatched the title of “least trusted industry” from usually unloved insurers.

[…] Governments could also take comfort from the news that they are now trusted by 51 per cent of those polled – compared to 43 per cent in the last survey and even above the January 2008 figure.

You can find details of Edelman’s mid-year trust update – including a walk-through of the results succinctly presented in a video by CEO Richard Edelman – on Edelman’s global microsite. In addition there’s more information about the UK results on their UK website.

Also, join the conversation about trust on Twitter at @Edelman_Trust and follow the conversation with the hashtag #edeltrust.

It’s obviously good to see an upswing in public trust in business and government. To borrow an overused but apt phrase: some ‘green shoots of recovery’ in that trust.

There is still a long way to go, though. Good PR helps but the foundation has to be solid for communication to make any difference. That takes time.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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