Why the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer actually shouldn’t scare the s**t out of you

Make no mistake about it: Edelman’s Trust Barometer is a fantastic resource each year. I love it. It’s usually full of great content many people use in blogs, e-newsletters, and client recommendations throughout the year.

But, don’t forget, it is a sales tool. And, this year in particular, it’s a fear-based sales tool.

It’s actually designed to scare the bejesus out of you. At least, that’s always been my take (Note: I am not an Edelman employee nor have I ever worked for or with Edelman).

And, this year’s report is no different. If you read the report, you might actually¬†think the world is coming to an end.

But here’s the thing: It isn’t. In fact, I could make a pretty good case that not only should the report not scare the pants off you–it should make you feel pretty darn good about your work.

In a few spots, at least:

Trust in execs is at al all-time low, but trust in “people like me” is at an all-time high

Sure, it’s not great news that our exec partners are no longer trusted by the masses. But, let’s be honest–that’s been a long time coming. What’s more the fact that “people like me” ARE trusted is pretty good news for corporate communicators. Think about it–what is one audience that corporate communicators frequently use to reach the employee masses? MANAGERS! And managers are, you guessed it, “a person like me.” We’ve been communicating via mid-level managers for YEARS. And, frequently, it’s one of the more effective communications channels we use.

Media are trusted less and less–that’s OK, we have owned media channels, right?

So the media is trusted by fewer people than anytime in recorded history, apparently (actually, it’s only down three percentage points since 2012, so let’s not get nuts here). That’s not so great on multiple levels. But, it’s not the worst news in the world for brands because this isn’t 1984. Brands have had access to all sorts of publishing tools for years that allow them to tell their stories directly to consumers without going through the media. And, according to the Trust Barometer, trust in “owned media channels” is actually up 2 points from 2012 to 2017. So, for those who have been investing in corporate blogs, podcasts and other owned media for the last few years, worry not, you are just fine.

Employees are clearly the most trusted people to deliver messages–time to start educating the heck out of them

When it comes to financial performance and operational performance, 38 percent of survey participants said they’d trust an employee–while just 20 percent said they’d trust the CEO. That’s absolutely shocking, considering many employees have no idea how to read a financial statement. But yet–there it is. What about in times of crisis? 37 percent of participants trust an employee, while just 21 percent trust the chief exec. These stats are alarming–but they also provide an opportunity for us communicators: To educate our rank-and-file employees on issues from financial performance to business goals to crisis situations. Again–something we’ve been doing for quite a while. It’s just time to up our game.

What about you–thoughts on the relatively recent Edelman Trust Barometer?

photo credit: Howard TJ #inktober2016 Day 13: scaredy cat. via photopin (license)

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