Edelman barometer shows trust creeping up

It was poignant that our company's founder, Dan Edelman, died just a week before the launch of the 13th annual Edelman Trust Barometer, at the age of 92.

Ed Williams: 'There is a gap between people’s high expectations of business and government and the actions they see in practice.'
Ed Williams: 'There is a gap between people’s high expectations of business and government and the actions they see in practice.'

This year’s barometer, a global survey of more than 30,000 people in 26 countries, stands as a testament to him. It reveals a world where trust levels have recovered slightly but where trust itself remains fragile.

If there is any consolation for businesses that are still struggling to improve their standing, it is that politicians are seen in a worse light. Nor do the media come out of the research too well. Only the apparently more trustworthy NGOs have kept up a more impressive trust score – although even here the public is less convinced than it was in the pre-financial crash era.

In Europe we find some striking results. A majority of ‘informed public’ Brits (54 per cent) believe that the German government will help to lead us out of crisis – a higher score, incidentally, than the number of Germans who feel the same way about their political leaders (48 per cent).

While trust in political leaders may be low, the idea and possibility of effective government is still something in which many people believe.

And while there may be doubts as to the motivations of some business leaders, business itself is still seen as a good thing. In other words, there is a persistent gap between people’s high expectations of business and government and the actions and behaviour they see in practice.

There is a crisis of leadership – and therefore an opportunity, too.

The public presumes that businesses will be run competently and profitably – those are mere ‘table stakes’, as they say in the US. To win deeper trust – and thereby better results – it is necessary to do other things: treat employees well, show concern for stakeholders, act responsibly and transparently, and engage with your critics.

That is the sort of business leadership that Dan Edelman long argued for and, indeed, embodied.

Ed Williams is the UK CEO of Edelman PR

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