LEADER: Corporate trust hit by a headless City

Edelman cleverly timed its annual Trust Barometer to tie in with the Davos Economic Forum, but would not have chosen to launch the report during the turmoil that gripped global money markets this week.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

On the morning - Tuesday - that CEO Richard Edelman stood up in Knightsbridge and told us that trust in business was ‘on the rise', traders in the City of London were described by observers as ‘acting like headless chickens'. The FTSE see-sawed up and down wildly, with only action from the US central bank restoring some semblance of calm.

Although opinion formers are - in Edelman's words - ‘more trusting of business than governments in the majority countries', it is surprising how quickly they turn to policymakers when the going gets tough.

As former Sunday Telegraph editor Patience Wheatcroft pointed out at Edelman's event, the actions of hedge funds have probably magnified the current swings in share prices.

And although trust in global business has bounced a little since the dark days of the Enron crisis, it is still worryingly low - less than 50 per cent.

People's trust in business would surely be strength-ened by wider share ownership. But can we expect this to happen with such huge fluctuation in stocks?

While the public may trust big businesses to act more ethically these days - an achievement in part down to influential PR advisers - this can only be eroded by City traders who seem to be continuously caught on the hop.

Long-term trust in business will be improved by business leaders proving they think strategically and long-term. They must be seen to distance themselves from the short-term demands of some in the City, a proportion of which actually bet against business success.

Blue-chip CEOs must have the confidence to talk of long-term, sustainable growth. It is the role of our best PR professionals to help them in this task.

danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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