Trust has imploded. Here’s what you need to know…

Edelman_Trust_Barometer_2017_UKresults-1000x600It has been a year of unimaginable upheaval.

Trust has been so corroded that we now trust leaked information much more than traditional news sources; and algorithms over human editors.

Trust is in crisis around the world, we have media echo chambers, widespread mistrust in leaders and a lack of objectivity.

In the UK, trust is at a historic low at 29 per cent.

Trust in institutions has evaporated to such an extent that falsehood can be misconstrued as fact, strength as intelligence, and self-interest as social compact.

The growing storm of distrust is powerful and unpredictable.

To rebuild trust and restore faith in the system institutions must move beyond their traditional roles of business as actor and innovator; governments as referee and regulator; media as watchdog; and NGOs as social conscience.

This means stepping outside of traditional role and working towards a new, more integrated operating model that puts people – and the addressing of their fears – at the centre of everything they do.

In short, it’s chaos out there and business needs to lead. Or to be more accurate, people do. 

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer has shared these findings as part of its 2017 report. It’s hot off the press. I’ve read it and am going to highlight what you need to know.

Slow pace at firstI’ll be honest with you, it makes miserable reading! Particularly as someone living, working and running a business in the UK.

It shows we don’t trust anything, or anyone. Mistrust is high, morale is low and trust is in crisis.

But all is not lost.

Honestly! There are things we can do as professional communicators to navigate organisations through this trust minefield.

I wrote only last week about the rise of fake news and what it means for communicators.

Buckle your seat belts, it’s going to be a tricky road ahead. I can’t guarantee the destination either. Sigh.

Let’s get on with it, there’s much work to be done.

I don’t have all the answers, but to ignore the warnings in this report is foolhardy. Read it, digest it and make your own minds up.

Think: what can I do? How can I affect change in my organisation? Who do employees trust? How can we repair and protect trust? What do employees trust and how can we uphold that?

The results show trust in authority is draining away and being replaced by trust in those closest to us and most like us.

That’s huge, and a massive opportunity for organisations to rethink their comms strategies.

Edelman Trust 2017

Edelman Trust 2017

People like me
In every one of my internal comms Masterclasses to date, attendees and I have discussed the “new norm” of trust and influence flow in organisations.

We look at the change from monologue to dialogue and what this means for communicators.

Edelman identified the rise of peer-to-peer or “people like me” communication a few years back and I’m seeing it increase in the organisations I have the pleasure of working with, both through user-generated content and amplification of employee voice.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog: One in three employees don’t trust their employers.

You can do this

How can you do this? It’s about understanding who employees trust in your organisation. Hint: it may not be the people you think.

Go beyond the C-Suite and understand who really holds the keys to uniting and shaping your organisation.

There’s technology out there to help you do this (e.g. Delve), but you cannot beat understanding who advocates are and what they’re actually advocating. That’s a whole other blog post.

This is your job. This is the role of internal communication.

You do have time, you have to make time.

Now more than ever, your internal network and insight needs to be amazing.

There’s no excuse for not understanding your workforce. It will help you transform the way your business operates.

We’re a long way off nailing it, but lots of communicators are starting those conversations.

The UK population trusts their family and friends over four times more than political parties and leaders.

Further reading on the All Things IC blog:

What is the barometer?

The barometer is essential reading for communicators and this is the firm’s 17th annual trust and credibility survey. The research was conducted by Edelman Intelligence, a global insight and analytics consultancy.

It’s an online survey in 28 countries and has 17 years of data. The 2017 one had 33,000 respondents and was conducted between 13 October and 16 November 2016.

I’ve blogged about it for the past few years and the results make compelling reading,

I particularly find the 16 attributes of trust useful to have to hand. Need to coach a leader through why transparent communication is important? That alone will help as a gauge to measure how they communicate against it.

So what are the results?
Today’s 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer results find two-thirds of the countries it surveys are now “distrusters” (under 50 per cent trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOS to do what is right.

This is up from just over half in 2016.

Edelman say: “This is a profound crisis in trust that has its origins in the Great Recession of 2008. The aftershocks from the stunning meltdown of the global economy are still being felt today, with consequences yet unknown.

“Like the second and third waves of a tsunami, ongoing globalisation and technological change are now further weakening people’s trust in global institutions, which they believe have failed to protect them from the negative effects of these forces.”

Watch Richard Edelman, President and CEO of the firm, talking through the barometer results:

Here are 10 Trust Barometer Insights by Edelman based on the barometer (use the widescreen button bottom left of the box to view it larger).

You can read the whole report, plus a UK-specific study (conducted in December and January) online:

Key UK findings include:

  • We have underinvested in the levers of trust across the board.
  • We are experiencing a total collapse in trust in the institutions that shape our society.
  • Trust in the UK is at a historic low at 29 per cent.
  • Trust is in an accelerating spiral of decline. Data from the closing days of 2016 and first week of the New Year shows an unparalleled plunge of 11 percentage points in a matter of weeks.
  • Attitudes to institutions are no longer defined by left and right, but by a political realignment around those who have “faith in the system” and those who don’t.
  • There is an unprecedented feeling in the UK that life is not as fair as it used to be. Only one in nine of the UK population think that the system still works, and globally half of those that are high-income, university educated and well-informed. Faith in the system is not about income anymore.
  • Loss of belief in the system appears to be fuelled by growing fears of forces beyond our control: immigration, the erosion of societal values and the pace of technological change.
  • Trust in authority is draining away and being replaced by trust in those closest to us and most like us. The UK population trusts their family and friends over four times more than political parties and leaders.
  • Politicians and the government are in real trouble – people don’t think they are the solution – they simply don’t trust them.
  • Trust in politicians is close to rock bottom, with Theresa May the only politician trusted by just over a third of the population. No other politician scored higher than 25%.
  • Business needs to lead. It is just about standing at 33 per cent, but will lose trust unless it engages with the people, and demonstrates solutions to public concerns.
  • The majority of people believe blunt, outspoken, spontaneous straight-talkers over rehearsed and diplomatic communicators.
  • Business should expect UK government intervention as seven in 10 believe the government should impose trading restrictions to prevent job losses.
  • 71% believe the government should protect jobs and local industries in the UK, even if the economy suffers.
  • Trust in media amongst Informed Publics is at a low, only surpassed in 2011 in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, at only 28 per cent.
  • Trust has been so corroded that we now trust leaked information much more than traditional news sources; and algorithms over human editors.
  • There is a consensus that now the UK has taken the plunge to leave Europe, we should get on with it.
  • A repeat of the EU Referendum would yield the same result; 87% of Leave voters are still sure of their vote, and 88% of Remainers would make the same vote.
  • Brexit still divides the UK: 31 per cent are more confident about their future, 36 per cent more worried, and 29 per cent remain neutral.
  • The UK is united in its attitude towards Trump. Fewer than one in five think he will have a positive effect on stability in the world, the global economy, the lives of our children, national finances and society in general.

What do you think of the findings?

Can you spot opportunities for how to shape conversations about trust in your organisation? What’s trust like? If you don’t know, make it your business to.

As ever you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.

We need to rewrite new rules because the future of effective organisations and vibrant cultures depends on it.

I’m off to have a strong cup of tea and am refusing to believe it’s game over.

We’ve got to try to fix this.

Who’s in?


Post author: Rachel Miller.

First published on the All Things IC blog 16 January 2017.

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Published January 2016. Last updated: August 2017.

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