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The Rise of the Expert: And 6 Other Takeaways from the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

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Here are 7 takeaways from 2018's Edelman Trust Barometer. Learn what it takes to build trust in your organization with these actionable tips.
rise of expert 6 takeaways from 2018 edelman trust barometer blog

Every year Edelman puts out its Trust Barometer. And every year, there are important takeaways for both internal communicators and business leaders. In recent years, the narrative has been focused on the importance of peer-to-peer communication. Essentially, we most trust those like us. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, this is no longer the case this year.

The “rise of the experts” is the new narrative. What does that actually mean? The 2018 results find that experts, both technical and academic, are now those we trust most. Why? Edelman claims that “in a world where media confusion is causing a churn of trust, voices of authority are now regaining credibility.” We are all too familiar with the “fake news” epidemic on social platforms like Facebook. And it’s not just these experts who saw a rise in trust. After a steady decline, more people trust CEOs than in year’s past. 2017 saw one of the greatest declines in trust for CEOs, but that trust has rebounded.

Given last year’s results, this is an amazing opportunity for CEOs, senior leaders and other experts and should motivate them to tap into that opportunity. They need to discover their authentic voices and share their ideas with the workforce. And here’s why: employees also give their employers a runway for leading on change. The 2018 Trust Barometer shows strong levels of employee trust in their employers to do what is right, with a global average of 72 percent trust.  

Here are the other six important takeaways for internal communicators:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents say they want CEOs to take the lead on policy change instead of waiting for government, which now ranks significantly below business in trust in 20 markets. This show of faith comes with new expectations; building trust (69 percent) is now the No. 1 job for CEOs, surpassing producing high-quality products and services (68 percent).
  • Business is now expected to be an agent of change. The employer is the new safe house in global governance and 64 percent believe a company can take actions that both increase profits and improve economic and social conditions in the community where it operates. This is a tremendous opportunity for communicators. 
  • If you work for a multinational company, trust has never been so polarizing. For the most part, when trust rises globally, it also rises across all countries. And the same with declines. But not in 2018. There’s a different story, with equal rises and falls across the world. Take a look at the full report to see where trust sits in your countries where your company works.
  • Trust in the U.S. has suffered the largest-ever-recorded drop in the survey’s history among the general population. Trust among the general population fell nine points to 43, placing it in the lower quarter of the 28-country Trust Index. Trust among the informed public in the U.S. imploded, plunging 23 points to 45, making it now the lowest of the 28 countries surveyed, below Russia and South Africa.
  • Let’s get back to the decline in trust with “a person like yourself,” which dropped six points to an all-time low of 54 percent. This is particularly interesting and I believe social media is to blame. The rise of “fake news” has increased overall skepticism of content and we don’t believe “people like us” can tell the difference between real and fake news. 

And perhaps the most important one…

  • When fake news threatens real news, the origin of content begins to matter more. And this is why it’s so important for internal communicators to deliver sources of truth with company news and information. Your own channels and platforms can be the go-to for trusted company content, no matter what’s being shared externally.

Based on your level of interest, there are a few ways for you to read up on the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer. There’s an Executive Summary that gives the highlights and commentary. And if you really want to dig into the data, check out the full Global Report. I also recommend checking out Rachel Miller’s perspectives on her All Things IC blog.

I trust you will. 😉

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Chuck Gose

Chuck Gose

I am a self-proclaimed Skyline Chili connoisseur and Duran Duran fan with nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, corporate communications, and internal communications. My passion and enthusiasm for the communications profession began early in my career at General Motors and Rolls-Royce, Since then, I have focused on weaving internal communications and technology in creative ways. I'm also the co-creator of The Periodic Table of Internal Communications and The Very Hungry Communicator. But most importantly, I got to fly in a blimp once.

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