We've now spent the last four weeks discussing the results of the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, and the global impacts those findings may have on a series of institutions—mainly the government, big business and the media. If you're just joining us, a marked divide is emerging between what Edelman has coined the “elite” population and the rest of the general public. The elite or informed public – those possessing at least a college degree – express far higher levels of support and confidence in the government, media and industry when compared to the rest of the “mass population.”
And while these gaps are significant in all areas across the globe, the largest disparity in trust is observed in the business sector in general. Richard Edelman elaborates:
“The most profound difference between elite and the broader populations is found in their attitudes toward business. There are double-digit gaps in half of the countries surveyed, the most significant being in the U.S., where 70 percent of the elite population express trust in business in contrast to 51 percent of the general population, a 19-point difference.”
Altering these opinions will neither be easy or immediate, but if we're armed with an understanding of why trust levels have changed – coupled with strategies to change how every citizen views business leaders – we can start cultivating trust in our own companies.
If you're just joining us, our most recent series of posts have discussed the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer and the global impact its results may have on businesses, governments and the media. In our most recent post, we addressed the ever-growing skepticism customers harbor toward American business leaders. However, while a solid percentage of the global population expresses some form of hesitancy and distrust, the situation is far from hopeless.
In fact, despite the current attitudes expressed by citizens around the globe, Edelman's results show large portions of our society remain optimistic about business and its leaders:
“The survey shows that despite the general population’s skepticism, business has the best chance of bridging the trust gap while still fulfilling its mandate to create value. The general population sees business as the institution best able to keep pace with rapid change, ranking it well above government and higher than nongovernmental organizations.”
As business owners or team leaders, if we're to reverse the negative trends that have created this trust disparity, we must begin by understanding the way “trust” has changed in recent years.
If you're joining us for the second installment of our series on the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, you understand there are a few key elements of today's society that are contributing to the growing trust disparity between the “informed” and “mass” populations. As Richard Edelman sums up,
“Trust is rising in the elite or “informed public” group – those with at least a college education, who are very engaged in media, and have an income in the top 25 percent. However, in the 'mass population' (the remaining 85 percent of our sample), trust levels have barely budged since the Great Recession.”
As it currently sits, the trust gap difference between the informed public and the masses is nearly 19 percent. When these views become the norm – when the staggering majority accepts skepticism as a consumer mindset and cynicism as a political platform – consequences arise. To quote Holly Green, CEO and managing director of The Human Factor, in an article in Forbes,
“Putting our collective cynicism aside, this pervasive lack of trust represents a leadership crisis of staggering proportions. When we don’t believe that our business and political leaders tell the truth, it sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and ways of thinking and behaving that gets in the way of achieving our goals.”
Though you might have a “so what” reaction to the idea that large portions of the population have diminished trust in government and business, we're now seeing that trust levels have a measurable impact on how our society functions and how consumers interact with businesses. And this impact demonstrates that trust is a must for businesses to cultivate.
We've believed for a while that companies of any size must cultivate trust. Consumer trust plays an important role in brand advocacy, social media engagement, and the success of new products. While much of the analysis and conclusions surrounding trust in the business world has tended to be on the theoretical side, a recent survey has revealed some very interesting, concrete facts and statistics surrounding consumer trust. And this survey has revealed that trust isn't just a “nice to have” thing for your business or organization; it's now a “must have” if you want your company to succeed.