A Question of Trust

VMA’s Business Leaders in Communications Study 2012 revealed the following nuggets :

  1. 67% of participating organisations had their Head of Communications reporting to the CEO
  2. 65% of respondents considered “overall reputation management” as the comms function’s most important role; (this went up to 88% when the top 3 most important roles were aggregated)
  3. 37% of CEOs of the participating organisations spend at least 1 day a week on communications

In themselves, there is nothing too remarkable about these responses.

However, when looking at these results alongside findings from the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer*, you have to wonder if the close association of a comms function with their CEO is more of a hindrance than a help in its reputation management goal?

The conflict is clear when you consider the Trust Barometer’s results on the credibility of CEOs operating in mature markets (which include the UK): the CEO’s credibility rating suffered its largest drop in Barometer history, falling 12 points to just 38%.

By contrast, respondent are increasingly seeing their peers – “People like me”, and a company’s employees as sources of trusted information with “People like me” gaining 65% credibility rating (plus 22 points from 2010) and employees at 50% (plus 16 points).  The only two sources more trusted than these two groups are “Academic experts” – 68%, and “Technical experts within the company” – 66%.  The conclusion drawn in the report is that:

Smart businesses will talk to their employees first and empower them to drive the conversation among their peers about the company and its role in society.”
Source : 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer

Other interesting findings are that traditional media sources are still the most trusted in the US and the UK although, not surprisingly, China saw double digit decreases in both television and newspapers as a trusted source.  More surprisingly, trust in both TV news and newspapers fell by 10 points or more in both France and Germany.

The report also highlights that social media in which they include social networking sites, content sharing sites, blogs and micro-blogging sites, saw the biggest increase (75%) in trust among media sources however this was from a very low base of just 8% in 2010.  Again, not surprisingly, micro-blogging sites and social networking sites went from virtual distrust in 2010 at just 1% to being greatly trusted by 25% and 21% respectively in China.

If you marry the two results of who people trust now and the arrival of social media as a credible source of information, it seems likely that, in the not too distant future, social media may start to rival traditional media as the most trusted source of information across the world.


* The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer is the 12th such annual survey and was produced by research firm StrategyOne. It consisted of 20-minute online interviews conducted from October 10 – November 30, 2011. The online survey sampled 25,000 general population respondents with an oversample of 5,600 informed publics in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) across 25 countries. All informed publics met the following criteria: college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business ⁄ news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week.


About madeleinekavanagh

Internal comms specialist with a career spanning advertising, car sales and management consulting. My greatest legacy (so far) - my son!
This entry was posted in Business Leadership, Corporate Communications, Social media. Bookmark the permalink.

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