Since 2000, the Edelman TRUST Barometer has surveyed tens of thousands of people across dozens of countries about their level of trust in business, media, government, and NGOs. I have been following the TRUST Barometer for the past ten years, and every year it’s full of surprises. But I was not prepared for the 2017 report.
The 2017 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals the largest-ever drop in trust across the institutions of government, business, media and NGOs — the first time the study has found a decline in trust across all four of these institutions. Trust in media (43 percent) fell precipitously and is at all-time lows in 17 countries, while trust levels in government (41 percent) dropped in 14 markets and is the least trusted institution in half of the 28 countries surveyed. The credibility of leaders also is in peril: CEO credibility dropped 12 points globally to an all-time low of 37 percent, plummeting in every country studied, while government leaders (29 percent) remain least credible.
Here in Australia the scorecard is appalling:
TRUST in institutions: 43% (down 6% on 2016)
TRUST in media: 32% (down 10% on 2016)
TRUST in government: 37% (down 8% on 2016)
TRUST in NGOs: 52% (down 5% on 2016)
TRUST in business: 48% (down 4% on 2016)
CREDIBILITY of CEOs: 26% (down 13% on 2016: yes, you read correctly, that’s a whopping 26%)
59% of Australians believe that the system is failing them, with 30% of the remaining 41% saying they are “uncertain”. “The system is broken”, reports Edelman, even among the high-income, the university-educated, and the well-informed.
The thing about trust is that you need to earn it. No ad campaign that says “trust us, we’re a good company” is going to shift the trust barometer. Talk is cheap when it comes to trust. Companies need to walk their talk and DO things to earn trust, respect, loyalty, and advocacy.
When Edelman asked people what companies could or should DO to build trust, this is what they found:
— treat employees well (72%)
— listen to customers (67%)
— pay its fair share of taxes (66%)
— place customers ahead of profits (65%)
— protect and improve the environment (60%)
— address societal needs in its everyday business (53%)
The most valuable currency today is TRUST, and companies earn it by treating people well and making a positive contribution to the society and world in which they do business. And that is exactly what great branding is and does.
Great branding starts with having a clear and authentic purpose — why we do what we do, beyond just making money. What exactly is our contribution to people, to society, to the world?
Great branding is also about CEOs having a stakeholder focus, not just a shareholder focus. Because CEOs with a stakeholder focus seek to build companies and businesses that are loved — loved by their staff, loved by their customers, loved by their business partners, and loved by the communities in which they operate.
Yes, Loved. That’s how you earn trust, respect, devotion, and advocacy. And that’s how you make your shareholders rich.