Silence is now deeply dangerous—a tax on truth – Richard Edelman
Trust is the most valuable commodity in your organisation – although it’s probably not something you talk about often, much less attempt to measure.
For the past 16 years, Edelman has attempted to track the progress, or decline, of trust across 28 countries.
The latest results of their Trust Barometer shows we live in an era of misinformation – which has profound implications for our organisations and communities.
Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information, 59% say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news comes from a credible source.
Tellingly only 24% of the UK trust Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when looking for news and information.
The credibility of “a person like yourself” is at an all-time low. The great hope we had for social media as a democratising force for good – unleashing waves of citizen journalists – appears to be over.
This all sounds bleak, but actually, there’s a new hope.
In an era of trust stagnation, there’s a new opportunity for leaders emerging. People have a renewed faith in credible voices of authority.
A few years ago there was a big drive to get CEOs on social media. With hindsight that was naive – we bear witness every single day to the disastrous consequences of leaders and politicians equipped with Twitter accounts.
The real drive should be to ensure our CEOs and leaders emerge as trusted credible sources of information.
7 in 10 respondents say that building trust is the No. 1 priority for CEOs, ahead of high-quality products and services.
Nearly two-thirds of people 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 most markets.
Building trust as a priority over delivering services? That’s a sit up and take notice moment.
Making this shift means a radical overhaul of how we currently view communication. Most organisations are still deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just get their marketing and PR right they can control the brand message.
Tell a good story. Issue flattering reports and PR pieces. Show you are nice people. Only engage with those who are positive about your organisation.
Demonstrably, this isn’t working. We are haemorrhaging trust.
Over the past week, I’ve been involved in a quite a few debates with leaders and the people we serve. Some of the conversations – and the disconnections they highlight – demonstrate exactly the themes that Edelman are tracking on a global scale.
Feelings of powerlessness, of not being listened to, of organisations that were designed to improve social outcomes becoming distant and ever more corporate.
I’ve certainly reflected on my own communications and why people sometimes don’t trust my organisation. Why they sometimes don’t trust me.
- Distrust will only be combatted through leaders being open and accountable and having public discourse with one another and with the people they collectively serve.
- Concern about disinformation will only be combatted by providing real evidence of the kind of outcomes we are achieving. It’s time to kill it with the awards for ourselves.
The digital age has disrupted the accepted rules of trust. No longer is a relationship solely between citizen and institution. What was once a binary one to one relationship behind closed doors is now conducted in public in a much broader social context.
Silence is dangerous.
Social media hasn’t shifted the balance of power — but it’s certainly shining a light on where power is held and how it behaves.