Tapping Opportunity. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

Businesses who behave with a responsibility to educate, inform and entertain stand a greater chance to be trusted, when they think beyond just selling.

The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer has recently been released. Whilst we can acknowledge that trust is still at a very low point, if 2017 was about accepting that we are all part of a level playing field, this year represents the ability to be relevant as an industry source.

For nearly 20 years, Edelman have measured and highlighted public trust in the media, government and business. Surveying over 33,000 people within 28 countries. It is an extensive report that serves as a barometer for whom we have faith in.

On a business level, it represents how we can be seen as a credible source for others to rely on us.

Over the previous two years, I have highlighted that people are prepared to trust business (in 2016), you can read it here. In 2017 and after Brexit, I highlighted that not trusting is a good trait to have, you can read it here.

Rather than going through the whole report, lets pull out some key findings that can hopefully relate to you. This is not about highlighting doom and gloom, but tapping opportunity.

 

The Overall Picture

Lets get straight to the point and say that trust in businesses in the UK is at an all time low and is one of the lowest scoring countries in the world. On the plus side, those businesses who are trusted, their relationships and presence can be magnified whilst others slowly get sucked deeper into the quicksand.

It has never been a better time to make that step, have a clear voice and to go deeper. Lets look at it the other way, if everything was rosy and everyone trusted businesses, we’d all be shaking hands at a Blue Peter badge party.

It is safe to say that trust is now a scarce commodity. So how can you mine within a space that isn’t plentiful anymore? Lets have a look.

 

There Is Gold In There

One of the main themes from the whole report is that misinformation is becoming something that is embedded within society. On the one side, we have Facebook continually tweaking their algorithm, YouTube allowing extremist content and on the other hand, the suspicion of the Russia-linked Twitter bot activity during the Brexit vote.

Facebook have recently made a stand by allowing users to rank the trustworthiness of news outlets. This is extremely weak when no-one makes a stand, but those who can’t tell what is true or false to now call the shots.

We can all see that when it comes to control from the social world, it is becoming ever more apparent that nothing is balanced. There are very few checks and in the meantime bots, ads and automation fuel a growing fire.

Whilst trust within social channels is starting to become a game of Chinese whispers and you’re sitting at the end of a giant circle of a sentence that sounds different from where it started, traditional media has grown in reputation. Traditional media is defined as publishers and broadcasters. Trust has grown to its highest point since 2012 of nearly 61% of Brits surveyed.

If trust within traditional media is growing, perhaps this suggests the importance for businesses to take on this approach? This doesn’t mean that they have to turn into news channels and expect the Twitter feed to start blowing steam, but to take an approach to go deeper and not wider. This also means that people need to step forward and the article that is present on your website has not been published by ‘admin.’

WHAT TO TAKE FROM THIS: Depth will always win; this does not mean regurgitating what has already been said or just filling spaces because you have to. If you can discover and interpret a different story to the rest of your marketplace, you can redefine a category.

Our attention spans are not waning. We just need to be more meaningful to those who want to interact with us. If you can find a responsibility for what you do and deliver it to an audience who believe, that is far stronger than thinking you have to have an opinion about everything (I covered this topic on an article related to long-form thinking).

 

The Voices Of Authority

When it comes to who has authority, journalists are the clear winners this year (a whopping 13 point growth from 2017), lets look at who else is seen as credible.

Whilst it highlights the sharpest decrease, ‘a person like yourself’ is still seen as the third most credible source after technical and academic experts. Perhaps the issue that we now find ourselves within is that people are sounding the same as everyone else while they all inhabit the same echo chamber. We have seen that played out during January on LinkedIn where the glut of expertise has become widespread. People are now quicker than ever to highlight their paths to success and regurgitating motivational quotes as though they were touched with a moment of inspiration whilst in the queue at Greggs.

WHAT TO TAKE FROM THIS: People trust other people, we haven’t given up on each other. Rather than look to build a clear space between your elevated status and the rest of the world, what there needs is the ability to be honest. Creating personas that do not resonate with others, only contributes to people turning away and to be forgotten.

As Mark Schaefer highlighted in a recent {grow} article (Monday 29th January), “Nurturing true authority through authenticity, meaningful content, and an engaged group of followers will lead to a legitimate reputation and business benefits.”

 

Taking The Lead

2018 Edelman Trust BarometerWhilst it sounds common sense for CEOs to take the lead and represent change, what it represents is the ability to step-up and champion a cause.

At the January You Are The Media Lunch Club, I spoke to Angela Piromalli from Rock Recruitment and how Angela has made an annual awards ceremony work for her business.

Angela decided to create an event to reward and put the spotlight on young people who had either taken onboard a lot at such a young age or just acknowledge those who had drive and determination. Whilst it aligns with her business (a recruitment company), it also provided the opportunity to create an event in a space that no-one else had participated within. This is Angela’s way of believing in something and creating a format to bring people together, since 2012.

This also stands side by side the fact that people trust employers. The UK has seen a 14% increase from 2016 to 2018 (global average is 7%). If people trust businesses, then this represents  an even more important role to highlight a responsibility and not just a role to puff the chest out and declare your own industry greatness.

 

Locking In For The Long Term

The campaign mentality that many companies have accepted as the norm in order to convince others, is paving the way for people to trust companies who are continually present and have some form of meaning, not merely rock up when it is time to sell.

People are prepared to trust those who keep to their promises, or at least look to say something that is valid. When looking at the figures that highlight that people look to CEOs to lead (64%) and to be present only highlights even further that people show up as themselves and not hide behind a logo that took four months to prepare.

What is encouraging is that when it comes to trusted companies, as well as tech and education businesses, professional services are those whom people can relate to. This opens a wide field from consultants, accountants, law firms, design companies through to fitness trainers.

WHAT TO TAKE FROM THIS: People relate to other people, not Helvetica fonts and thought out straplines to impress someone who pays an invoice.

Companies need to build something that others want to be a part of, not just wanting to build subscribers.

 

Time To Step Up & Look At Things Differently

With the big angle this year being fake news, manipulation and skepticism it represents a distorted world where traditional journalism comes out as a bastion for the truth (and people are prepared to pay for it).

This is an approach that businesses can take on board. It is not as hard as it looks.

The top mandates for businesses are to safeguard privacy (hello GDPR from 25th May) and within the media is to educate, inform and entertain. This is where the opportunity lies.

When it comes to reporting, this has always come from a real person who is transparent and people can see a particular point of view or style. Why not adapt this within your business? Rather than reporting, take onboard an approach of documenting the role that your business plays within the world today. This can identify where things are broken, the hope that is out there and the people who play their part. Representing the voice(s) within the companies that we represent is far stronger than the time spent on building a WordPress website.

If people are prepared to trust the media in a slew of fakeness, then people are prepared to trust businesses in a sea of sameness.

Is there a particular cause that you believe in (in Angela from Rock’s case it was recognising young people who do good things)? When you find a space that aligns with your business and similar to a media company, you keep with it. You start to build others around what you believe in. People are ready to trust. It is the responsibility of businesses to take the lead and not throw anything that sticks on a Twitter timeline, but a commitment to what you believe in. For instance, the Daily Mail has a right wing bias and The Guardian has a heavy left wing slant. Rather than a political stance, the thing that keeps you grounded, can become the thing that makes you different from everyone else.

Going deeper within the areas that you believe in is what will encourage you to become the media. When you come from a place that has heart, belief and relevance, this is what can enable the growth of a very scarce commodity.

 

Lets Round Up

Trust is a prized treasure but there is an unwillingness to believe information. In the words of US boxing legend, George Foreman, “The greatest asset, is not oil and gas. It’s integrity. Everyone is searching for it, asking, ‘Who can I do business with that I can trust.”

We all have a responsibility to behave with integrity and strive to have a voice that is true and represents how we provide value to others. If businesses adopt an approach to educate, inform and entertain others, then people are more inclined to make that path to you.

It looks like we’re not quite out of a very deep hole just yet, but if you can create spaces where people want to participate or just feel that they are not being manipulated, then you can create a place of differentiation.


 

You can read the full UK report here.

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