Measuring Trust

December 10, 2019By Tressa RobbinsAMEC, Burrelles, Communications, Media Industry, Public Relations No Comments

PR News Measurement Hall of Famer, Pauline Draper-Watts, and her Edelman Intelligence colleague Lauren Vincelli recently led an AMEC Measurement Month webinar discussing some of the key findings from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer and how to measure trust.

Pauline kicked-off by taking us on a bit of a deeper dive into a few key findings and the data behind those results, sharing the numbers by specific segments, countries, and groups.

Overall Trust Inequality Returns to Record Highs

In the mass population–the 85 percent of the general public that is not the informed public–there’s a disparity of the trust between the informed public and everyone else.

The trust levels among the informed public and the mass population over time are diverging. In fact, we’ve returned to the record high level of trust inequality with a 16-point gap. In other words, the mass population has not benefited from the improved outlook–having not grown much since 2012.

“This disparity creates a world that truly feels out of balance, one where your ability to rely on institutions differs greatly depending on your level of income and education,” Pauline stated.

My Employer Most-Trusted Relationship

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that trust has changed profoundly in the past year. People shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.

Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and government and media (both 47 percent). We see general distrust of NGOs, business, government, and the media.

While these institutions aren’t trusted, people are turning to what is close to them–local and personal–their relationship with their employer. People feel invested in their employer-employee relationship because it’s tangible and comes with a sense of control. They can choose to change jobs or have some leverage over that relationship.

In fact, people want to hear more from their CEO (not CEOs in general, but their CEO). The majority of employees say that it is critically important for their employer to respond and talk about challenging times. These include industry-related issues, but also political events, national crises and other employee-driven issues. They want to work for an employer that offers leadership–one that stands up for them and their shared values.

Investing in Employee Trust is Investing in Your Bottom Line

For companies, building trust internally results in higher trust externally because most people (78 percent) see how you treat your employees as one of the most powerful indicators of whether your company can be trusted, Pauline explained. While a good reputation may convince someone to try a product or service, “if they do not come to trust you they will cease to buy from your company regardless of your reputation.”

Business has an obligation (and an opportunity) to fill the void left by other institutions, and it is not necessary to choose between societal impact and profits.

Globally, 73 percent agree that “a company can take specific actions that both increase profits and improve the economic and societal conditions in the communities where it operates.” For example, some of the tech companies have made a commitment to invest heavily in affordable housing in the Silicon Valley area–recognizing this is what they need to do for their business, as well as society, in terms of their reputation.

(Dis)Trust in Media

The media remains one of the least-trusted institutions. Nineteen (of the 26 markets) showed an improvement in trust in the media to do what is right; however, 16 markets remained in the distrust category.

While the US market showed an 8-point improvement, it remains in the distrust category with less than 50 percent trusting the media do what’s right. Pauline added, “which is a very sad state of affairs.”

This leads us to one of the most stunning (and seemingly contradictory) findings of the 2019 Trust Barometer.

Massive Rise in News Engagement

There was a 22 percent increase in people engaging with news content. On one hand, they are distrusting news but on the other they are engaging with the content more. Pauline says this is a profound shift.

The disengaged (those who consume news less than weekly) fell from 49 percent in 2018, to 25 percent in 2019–going from one to in two people not engaging with news content to only one in four not engaging. Seventy-two percent now engage in the news on a regular basis.

The category that saw the largest increase was amplifiers–those who not only regularly consume news but also share or post content, often adding their own voice to the conversation, several times a month or more.

Breaking this down further, more women than men became those amplifiers. A 23-point increase of women in the informed public category, and 13-point increase of women in the mass population.

Traditional Media, Search Most Trusted

While we saw significant distrust in the media, we’ve also seen the amplification of news increase. And now we see traditional media and search engines are still the most trusted—with social media trust lagging behind by more than 30 points in the US. Overwhelmingly, when people are looking for reliable sources, they turn to traditional media and search.

Measuring Your Trust

An enormous amount of time and energy has been spent on understanding the differences between those companies that are trusted and those who are not, says Lauren Vincelli, Edelman Intelligence Senior Vice President.

Lauren says trust is “not just a vanity metric–it is predictive of financial performance and other essential drivers of business success.”

Trusted organizations have some commonalities:

  1. They have more advocates/customers who are vocal and willing to recommend them.
  2. Their employees are more loyal, stronger and more vocal.
  3. Regulators are less likely to scrutinize or over-regulate these organizations.
  4. Investors see out-performance over companies that are not trusted, so they are more likely to receive investment dollars.
  5. They are more resilient in the face of crisis–they bounce back faster.
  6. High trust companies outperformed their sector by an average of 5 percent last year.

Companies in general are really good at measuring their own brand reputation and tying that back to sales. Conversely, Edelman is often looking at organizational and corporate reputation as a separate, distinct and very important measurement. They help businesses or organizations determine their “score” and best manage their trust capital among its audiences, stakeholders and shareholders.

Measuring Trust: Breaking it Down

While the infamous Edelman Trust Score is what most companies want to know, Lauren says that score without any context means nothing. When you look at the score differences across competitors and audiences, that score begins to come to life–it shows what comprises this score. Where do you perform the best? What is contributing to that score? Where do people most trust you? And what is most important to people?

Lauren explained the four trust dimensions that have been established and contribute to the Edelman trust score:

  1. Ability. Being good at what you do.
  2. Integrity. Being honest and transparent.
  3. Dependability. Keeps its promises and delivers.
  4. Purpose. Having a positive impact on society.

Where it can be customized and make this data actionable is to validate a list of drivers–behaviors that they are already doing, or behaviors they are planning to deliver–and establishing how important they are to people, and how the company performs them.

Finally, mapping that back to the connection between all the dimensions of trust shows how familiar and aware people are, and how they view and perceive communications from the company or organization. Then they have the data to put together a ‘road map’ to drive an increase in trust.

Making Trust Actionable

To clarify, the five steps to making trust actionable are:

  1. Start to prioritize trust drivers based on importance.
  2. Re-take stock of strengths to build on.
  3. Think about where you need more “evidence” (research).
  4. Look at your current communication across audiences and identify what needs to be better supported or developed.
  5. Establish internally what proof points are for key areas and build content around it.

While this is a long post on what was covered in this webinar, it certainly doesn’t cover everything. Seeing and hearing the webinar for yourself will help you link all of these together (and to see the charts and graphs demonstrating all of these statistics and how they correlate).

Click here for a replay of the webinar.

Does your organization measure trust? Please share your experiences and/or thoughts with us in the comments section.

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