Whom Do You Trust?

Increasing global skepticism is a theme that will inform creative communicators’ plans this year.

WEF Davos Jan. 25, 2012

World Economic Forum -- Davos, Switzerland

The World Economic Forum (WEF) concluded its invitation-only annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last weekend. The 2,600 global attendees included CEOs, political leaders, media representatives and academics.

They came together “to inspire, to interact, to share,” said WEF founder Klaus Schwab — all in service of the non-profit’s mission of improving the state of the world.

Among world challenges examined were debt, sustainability and social equity. Another discussion-worthy theme explored was gaining trust in leadership. This issue holds considerable relevance for communicators whose responsibilities include counseling executives.

Measuring Trust
Confirming the theme of increasing worldwide skepticism, Edelman PR’s President and CEO Richard Edelman chose the WEF to present the results of his company’s annual Trust Barometer.

Economic turmoil around the globe exemplified by paralysis in the United States, the European Union bailout, and corruption issues in India and Brazil caused trust in government to drop to an overall score of 43 percent. Government now trails business, media and non-governmental organizations as least trusted institution.

Although trust in business remained somewhat stable this year, CEO credibility plummeted. At 38 percent, a drop of 12 points, the result is the biggest decline in nine years.

Survey data show that the most trusted sources of information about a company are academics, followed by a company technical expert and then a “person like me.” Employees also strengthened their credibility, jumping from least credible in 2011 to tied for fourth on the list in 2012.

“This is further evidence of the dispersion of authority,” said Edelman. “Smart businesses will talk to employees first, because citizens now trust one another more than they do established institutions.”

Edelman believes business can lead the way out of the trust crisis by addressing the critical issues of the times. “But the balance must change so that business is seen both as a force for good and an engine for profit,” he said.


  • In this climate of skepticism, respondents said they needed to hear something about a company three to five times before achieving belief.
  • Make employee communications a priority.

The survey also contains interesting findings about government regulation and the most trusted sources of information for people searching for general news, new products and company announcements. To study the detailed results and the survey methodology, visit the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer website.

Thanks to the World Economic Forum for the overview photo via Flickr.

What opportunities can you find to share information with your audiences across multiple channels as you use the survey finding regarding the importance of repetition?

You might also enjoy The Word That Makes PR Folks Cringe.

About creativeconsiderations

Christine Sullivan is a communications strategist with expertise in communications planning, writing and content development, and executive communications. She can be reached at mycreativeconsiderations@gmail.com.
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2 Responses to Whom Do You Trust?

  1. jdobypr says:

    Key insights on brand reputation and being recognized as a trustworthy business person/partner. As with any PR campaign theory, the product and presenter must be believable and prove themselves as trustworthy via action in order to maintain and increase marketshare.

  2. Thanks for the visit and thoughtful comment, Jerry. I agree that the spokesperson’s credibility can make or break a campaign.

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