Seventy-two per cent of those surveyed in the UK said being able to trust a company was the most important criterion for corporate reputation. Trust came third in the global data.
In the US and much of Western Europe, trust and transparency ranked higher than product quality. This is the first time these two attributes were considered as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services themselves.
Financial return is now one of the least important considerations, dropping from its third place spot in 2006.
'We are seeing a vastly different set of factors driving reputation than we did ten years ago,' said Edelman president and CEO Richard Edelman. 'Trust is now an essential line of business.'
Globally, expertise still drives credibility of information sources. Stock or industry analyst reports and articles in business magazines were by far the most credible sources of information. Traditional media were also more highly trusted than social networking sites, blogs or websites.
Academics or experts, financial or industry analysts or NGO representatives were also viewed as the most credible spokespeople. CEOs saw a rise in credibility, by 13 points in the UK, but they still remained in the bottom two.
Overall, global trust in business had increased. In the US, it jumped 18 points to 54 per cent. But nearly 70 per cent suspected business and financial companies would revert to 'business as usual' after the recession. Trust in banks declined from 68 to 29 per cent in the UK from 2007 to 2010.
The 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm's tenth annual trust and credibility survey. It surveyed 4,875 'informed publics' in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) in 22 countries.