People want coronavirus info and expect employers to supply it

Globally, people are worried about the reliability and politicization of virus-related information.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

NEW YORK: People around the world are searching for reliable information about the coronavirus and are expecting employers to help them stay informed, according to an Edelman Trust Barometer survey conducted last week.

Some seven out of 10 people are searching for virus information daily, according to the study, which queried 10,000 people (1,000 in each market) in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the U.K. and the U.S. from March 6 to March 10.

In the poll, most people admitted to having concerns about the information they’re finding. Some 74% are worried about fake news and false information relating to the virus and 85% said they want to hear less from politicians and more from scientists.

But while they are turning to major news media for information — 64% say it’s their main source  they are also looking to their employers for information and see internal comms as a trusted source.

People still look to scientists, health officials and doctors as the most trustworthy spokespeople for virus information, but they also have a lot of faith in the information they’re getting from employers.

In fact, more people ranked employer internal communications as believable than information found on government websites, healthcare company websites, traditional media or social media.

“[This] speaks to not only on how people rely on employers for good information but also that they don’t expect employers to lie to them,“ said David Bersoff, SVP and head of global thought leadership research at Edelman.

Bersoff said the results about trusting employers match results from earlier research conducted for Edelman’s Trust Barometer. It also seems in line, he says, with what he’s hearing anecdotally.

“By and large, employers have been acting well,” he said. “You don’t hear the same things about foot-dragging and lack of preparation or the lack of taking this serious enough in the context of employees in the same way you do in terms of government.”

The survey bears out Bersoff’s perception. Across the globe, excluding Canada and Germany, people felt their employers were more prepared for the outbreak than their government.

Even more interesting, people list employers as the group they most trust to effectively respond to the crisis, after health officials like hospitals, doctors, national, global and local health authorities.

In fact, they trusted their employers to respond more than they trust government/private health insurance, schools, pharmaceutical companies, the government in general, NGOs, businesses in general and their fellow citizens.

Bersoff said he doesn’t think the sentiment is unique to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We are seeing, generally, a trend of people relying on brands and businesses and employers to address a whole array of societal issues,” he said. “But business and employers have been out on this branch for a while now. People are asking now if the idea of employers stepping up and getting engaged is trust washing or a marketing thing.”

“I say no. The desire to see employers and businesses get involved reflects a lack of reliance on other institutions. It’s not just a fad. It is growing out of a very real set of needs and even desperation on the part of people,” he added.

However, Bersoff acknowledged that this trust also presents a risk. In the survey, 78% of those asked agreed with the statement “Businesses have a responsibility to ensure their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and that their employees do not spread the virus into the community.”

And it will be a problem, Bersoff agreed, if businesses fail in that responsibility.

“Responding well to the virus is only one instance of the larger challenge businesses are facing,” he said. “The expectations by employees and by customers in terms of society as a whole are new things they need to do and be good at. It’s an open question if they will be able to meet that challenge. We are seeing them making the right steps. But absolutely in situations like this, there is always a chance they won’t live up to it.”

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