By Rachel Adrian
Edelman recently released their annual Trust Barometer report. This year was the sixteenth annual report and something we watch every year. It provides critical to insights about the state of business trust in Canada and around the world. This years report was especially interesting, and focused on the inequality of trust around the world.The report begins by introducing three segments of the world’s population:
Informed Public are those who are college educated, are between 25-64 years of age, exist in the top 25% of income earners in each country and reported that they consume a significant amount of news media.
Mass Population is everyone except the informed public.
General Online Population is the combination of both.
1.Rising Inequality in Trust
The report details a growing gap in trust levels between the Informed Public and the rest of the population. The Informed Public tends to be very trusting of all 4 sectors, government, business, media and NGO’s. The General Population has much lower levels of trust for all 4 sectors, and this gap seems to be increasing worldwide.Around the world, only 53% of the General Online Population claims to trust business while 63% of the Informed Public does.
The Informed Public is driving a significant rebound in trust across sectors, but the rest of the population is lagging behind and seeing smaller increases. Around the world, the gap between high-income and low-income respondents is even more pronounced than it is in Canada, but in the coming years it is expected there will be similar gaps here as well.
Businesses need to work to regain the trust of this low-income segment. The following two points seek to give businesses insight into what these people are looking for in a ‘trustworthy’ business.
2. The Inversion of Influence
The traditional Pyramid of Influence has always held elites at the top, being the most influential segment of total population. This Pyramid has been flipped upside-down, with people looking to people like themselves for advice in all aspects of life, rather than elite, executives or officials. The popularity of social media provides instant feedback about the wide range of products, and institutions available to us, so we don’t have to rely on the elites anymore. The results demonstrate that people are most comfortable with technical or academic experts, but most people when making an everyday decision will look to their peers, or the Internet for help.Government and business executives inspire suspicion in the general population. This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to let their employees shine. Educate employees and get them excited about what the company is doing, they will be sure to tell their peers, and in turn have a great influence on the company’s bottom line. The general public finds it much easier to relate to employees that they view as peers rather than senior executives that may have ulterior motives.
3. The Opportunity for Business
What does this all mean for the business community? Business is the only institution that can help mend the divide between high-income and low-income populations. The report highlights that 8 in 10 individuals believe and expect businesses to play a role in addressing social issues, and those companies that do address prominent social issues, are significantly more likely to be trusted by all segments.The role of the CEO in this shift is tricky. People are inherently suspicious of CEO’s and their intentions. However, trust in the CEO has risen considerably over the past year from 41 to 49 percent of respondents. This is an opportunity for business to connect with consumers on a more personal level and really tell the story of what they are doing for the business, the community and for customers.
86% of people want the CEO to engage directly with the public, and 75% believe they should connect via media. The General Population wants to be more connected with senior executives, and with Internet at our fingertips, why shouldn’t they be? As the CEO becomes more visible, 80% of people want them to discuss societal issues, while only 70% are interested in financial results.Check out this video of Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers, connecting with his customers on an issue that it important to the company and customers. This video creates a unique bond and allows customers to feel more connected to someone once very distant. They key is authenticity!
The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, as always, held some very interesting results. This report is proof that consumers want business to step up and take a stand on important societal issues. Business must adapt to the changing expectations of society in order to regain trust and respect.