Every year for the last 22 years, Edelman has released their Trust Barometer, which analyzes which institutions people trust, and which they don’t. This year nearly 50% of respondents stated that they see government and media as divisive forces in society. This lead Edelman to identify a “vicious cycle of distrust fueled by government and media” as the theme for 2022.
With a pandemic still hanging over us, and supply chain slowdowns and other major societal concerns leaving us in the lurch for the third year in a row, we are worn out, anxious and protective of our health and well-being. Distrust feels natural in the state we’re in. Government and media’s inability to fix our inherent trust issues leaves room for another institution to come in and fill that role. And that institution is business.
For a little more insight on the research Edelman conducted, here are some numbers:
- 28 countries were surveyed.
- There were over 36,000 respondents.
- There were about 1,150 respondents per country surveyed.
- The survey consisted of 20-minute online interviews.
Trust in businesses
“Of the studied institutions, business is once again the most trusted.” Business leads at 61%, with government and media coming in at 52% and 51% respectively. But to further qualify business as the leader in trust, 77% of respondents cited that they trust their own employer, indicating an importance placed on the relationship between employee and employer. Where government and media are both seen as divisive forces in society, business is seen as a unifier.
According to the report, “across every single issue, by a huge margin, people want more business engagement, not less.” The societal expectation of businesses to step up and take the lead on breaking the cycle of distrust is clear. Businesses can now make an impact where they haven’t before. Edelman’s report goes on to emphasize that “societal leadership is now a core business function,” catalyzing businesses to rethink their branding approach and consider how to activate trust with their employees and customers.
What does this mean for business?
This report demonstrates that in a world of disarray and distrust, consumers are placing more pressure on businesses to support constructive causes that better society. It’s no longer enough for businesses to have great products and services, or fun marketing to back their brand. A huge differentiator for consumers today is what brands are doing to give back, how brands are treating their employees and what supporting a brand might represent.
The Trust Barometer showed that 58% of people globally buy or advocate for brands that align with their values and 60% of people globally choose to work at a place that aligns with their values and beliefs. These statistics demonstrate the call for business to play a more fundamental role in societal policy. But while business ranked well in the survey for competency and ethics, respondents seem to think businesses have work to do when it comes to climate change, economic inequality, workforce reskilling and providing trustworthy information.
It is now crucial for brands to become players in the general business realm as well as in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) realm. Taking a stand on societal issues and policies and making active attempts to make a difference in your business’s community and beyond is the key to setting your brand apart and gaining the trust of your customers and employees.
Trust is something that businesses have long strived for but often miss the mark on. With the trust in businesses naturally growing due to a distrust in government systems, now is the time to improve your role in the world of social responsibility and figure out where your business stands on major issues. Determine your company values and stick to them. Promote the work that your brand is doing for good. One brand doing this well? Patagonia. Their sustainability efforts have landed them a spot as one of the most responsible brands and their social media has blown up because of it. They stay true to their values and their customers.
But it’s more than amping up your corporate social responsibility. Building a better, trustworthy brand requires earning trust from your employees first — after all, they are your biggest, most important advocates. Focusing on company culture is just as important as turning outward to your social impact. Ensuring that employees are happy and feel included and welcomed in your workplace is crucial. If you haven’t already, take time to focus in on your diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, to listen to your employees when they have suggestions or criticisms and to encourage them to talk about what your company is doing well. Putting your best foot forward when it comes to talking about your company culture online is going to go a long way toward improving your company’s public perception.
What does this mean for marketers at these businesses?
Employer branding is huge these days, and when it comes to building trust, there’s no better way to do it. Continue the conversation on social media, in blog posts, on website landing pages, in email outreach — wherever you’re reaching your audience, make sure to take a break from your general marketing messages to promote yourself and the work your company is doing internally and for society. This will better demonstrate brand empathy and transparency, showing you’re a company that cares.
It’s in your control to position your brand as a social leader, one that’s making a difference in its community and beyond. By initiating that line of communication between human resources, company leaders and whoever else might be involved in CSR efforts, you’re opening up a greater conversation about the impact your company is making.
Trust is hard to gain and easy to lose
Focusing on creating content that drives concrete opportunities into your sales funnel might seem like the obvious place to spend your time in marketing. But failing to construct strong employer branding and corporate social responsibility within your company will result in fewer customers over time and a less trustworthy brand. And if you’re not living out your values, another brand taking active initiatives in society will surely take control of your industry.
Take the time to invest in your corporate social responsibility initiatives — from a business standpoint as well as a citizen’s standpoint, it makes sense to invest in initiatives that have a greater benefit outside of your organization.