Edelman's yearly Trust Barometer survey results are out, with trust in business, governments and NGOs up, whilst trust in the media continues its three year decline. However:
Although trust in business is up, the rise is tenuous. Globally, nearly 70 percent of informed publics expect business and financial companies will revert to "business as usual" after the recession.
Interestingly, trust in "credentialed experts" is up, compared to a drop in trust in "[people] like me", perhaps because in a recession people become aware that their friends don't have better information than they do. I don't think this necessarily points to a decline in word-of-mouth and would expect this metric to bounce back once we're out of recession. But then, your word-of-mouth is only as good as people's experience of your actual product or service and businesses do need to understand that you if you put lipstick on a pig, people will still see that it's a pig.
Edelman also found that:
A vastly different set of factors - let by trust and transparency - now influences corporate reputation and demands that companies take a multi-dimensional approach to their engagement with stakeholders.
Another good reason to use social media to engage with customers, clients and other stakeholders!
I'm slightly surprised it's taken us this long to see this happen. People are much more aware now that businesses can act deceptively towards them. There are many examples of deception (whether deliberate or through incompetence) and subsequent climb-down that persist in the public consciousness because the story has been so efficiently transmitted via the internet. It's hard not to view business in general with a certain level of mistrust these days.
Businesses that are deliberately transparent, on the other hand, counter this background mistrust by laying their cards on the table and emphasising that they are made up of human beings with whom we can interact, rather than corporate droids who only know how to say their equivalent of Computer Says NO! It is, after all, much harder to mistrust a real person for no reason than a faceless megacorp.
Here, Robert Phillips, UK Ceo for Edelman, talks about how trust pans out in the UK:
As usual, Edelman's report provides us with much food for thought.