NEW YORK: The most credible spokesperson a company can have is a "person like me," according to the seventh-annual Edelman Trust Barometer, a survey of almost 2,000 opinion leaders in 11 countries.
The power of 'sympatico' was highest in Brazil, where 86% reported people they could relate to as "extremely" or "very" credible, up from 76% in 2005. In the United States, the number was 68%, up from 56% in 2005.
While business magazines continue to be the most trusted source of information about a company in all countries, friends and family are a close second and increasing steadily. In the United States alone, the role of such people increased by 16% this year.
Matthew Harrington, president of Edelman's Eastern region, cited the continued growth of internet communities as a possible reason for the increased credibility of such sources.
"People of like mind are finding one another and... that's giving the sense of 'people like me' that are creating these echo chambers around issues, around opinions that's different than just a few years ago," he said.
"To trust someone means that you can have a common interest," added Jennifer Scott, president of Strategy One, Edelman's research agency. "The internet has been a tool in enabling people to do that."
As far as media is concerned, the internet has remained steady in terms of credibility, with 19% viewing it as credible. In most countries surveyed, television is viewed as the least credible.
The survey also addresses the issue of perception of the credibility of global brands, paying attention to the home countries of those brands. Western brands in particular, including Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, Shell, Unilever, and UPS, are rated trustworthy by more than 75% of Chinese respondents.
"Favorability for Western brands has gone up along with awareness of those brands," said Scott. "Some of it is about increased awareness and increased penetration of those brands into China."
Conversely, less than 40% of those surveyed expressed trust in global companies headquartered in such countries as India, China, and Korea.