I attended the Edelman Trust Barometer launch, and as expected, with the pandemic ravaging our world, rising concerns for the future of humanity due to the climate crisis, as well as on-going political upheavals, it is the most compelling report in its 21 year history.
I believe the Edelman Trust Barometer is one of the most important pieces of research released every year. It provides a window into our trust levels for government, business, NGOs and the media – globally. You can also drill down into country-specific data.
Without trust, we have no chance in overcoming the challenges all of humanity faces. It is one of the most important issues of our time.
For the last couple of years, CEOs and business have been asked to step up and drive the change needed in the world. This year that leadership demand is unequivocal, as CEOs must fill the void left by incompetent and untrustworthy governments.
Another highlight is the drop in trust in the world’s two largest economies. China and the US. I actually wonder if the US drop would be more significant if the measure was taken following the riots in the US capital? Very possibly.
Here is a link to the full report.
Here is a link to the Website, where there is more commentary.
Every year, Edelman have a theme, and this year it is declaring information bankruptcy. No one can argue with that, right? Our information systems are broken.
At the turn of the century, for the first time in human history, information became democratized. Here we are, 20 years later, and we have broken this incredible opportunity for the right to have a voice.
It’s time to apply incredible focus to fix what is broken, but if we give up the democratization of information, we must consider what we stand to lose. If we lose this freedom, we need to ask ourselves the question – is that cost too high? I believe it is, so we must fix what is broken to preserve this invaluable opportunity.
Perhaps the Information Czars of the past (who lost so much power with the information revolution) drove this divide to take away our information freedom? Or perhaps we were stupid enough to allow it to happen ourselves. Either way, it’s a loss we must stand against.
To achieve this, the concept of freedom of speech is something we must discuss with deep intention. It is the cornerstone of the issue, but it is not the only issue.
We don’t trust government – read
We don’t trust media – read
There is no question the media must clean up its act, because a free media is a critical pillar of democracy. However, the onslaught by politicians to seed doubt in our minds about the credibility of the media is very dangerous for all of us. Without free media, we lose a check and balance required to function as healthy democracies.
A view from Pakistan
A view from Turkey
A view from Zambia
A view from the US.
It’s not just the media either, we don’t trust information channels, with social media at the bottom.
Looking ahead – as we know to be true in personal relationships – until we regain trust in business, government, NGOs and the media, it will be extremely challenging for us to move forward united, to overcome the global issues we all face, and we have no time to lose.
A clarion call to CEOs
I’ve had discussions (and disagreements) with many folks on my suggestion for CEOs and businesses to lead the world to come together and make the changes we need to make, from a societal perspective, all the way through to addressing the climate crisis. Edelman’s Barometer backs this up. It is time to lead.
Business and leaders are trusted, are global, and are motivated to build businesses that are aligned to all stakeholder expectations and values. This has been a big shift in the last few years. Before it was shareholder value as the primary motivator.
With younger generations claiming their voice – as consumers and employees – demanding more accountability from business to do the right thing from a sustainability perspective, diversity, and so much more, leaders are slowly getting the message we have moved into a new time where real, authentic leadership is required.
As we can see in the data, consumers and employees are feeling more empowered than ever to force corporations to change. However, we saw last year employees could face backlash for doing this – Amazon fires two employees who called for climate change reform and better warehouse conditions. Today, we may see a significant increase in employee willingness to take that risk. I hope so.
Further highlights of the report
Today, the most trusted institution of the four institutions in this report is business. This provides an opportunity for businesses to lead the world out of the current state of information bankruptcy.
As this next data shows, with the significant decrease in trust of governments, we are looking to leaders of business to step in and fill the void.
Some may think this is too much to ask, or that it’s not relevant in their roles? Well we are not in normal times and the only way we can avoid even more pain from the pandemic, or the worst possible outcome from the climate crisis, is to recognize it’s time for a unified face, across all levels of society, including business, which is core to tackling the challenges ahead. Read – The Effects of Climate Change.
Business is also being looked to for information integrity, which is interesting. Marketers and communication professionals should look at this as a hot content opportunity for businesses who have the courage to step up to this challenge.
As we all know, we’ve been in an unrelenting Infodemic this last 12 months, which has hurt us all – read: The Grim Conclusions of the Largest-Ever Study of Fake News – and we know it’s not going to end.
Addressing the critical issues that impact us all – ending the pandemic by sharing verified scientific information or supporting those creating it, is a great opportunity if it’s aligned to your brand – so pharmaceutical companies could embrace this.
Sustainability, cleaning up plastic waste, e-waste, inequality, diversity, racism, etc… there are so many issues that matter, and if business is trusted, then aligning to a topic relevant to your brand and building a credible voice around this topic to build trust and drive change – in partnership – is the opportunity of 2021 in my mind. It has been the opportunity for some time, but hey, let’s do it now?
But it’s no longer ticking a box. Your audience is done with the box tickers!
Here’s a beautiful example of how this works: Meet the scientists tackling vaccine misinformation on TikTok. These scientists are part of Team Halo, a collaboration between the United Nations and the Vaccine Confidence Project, which is an initiative run by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It’s also a beautiful example of partnership too!
Personal ownership for information consumed and shared is also on the agenda, and I will continue to speak about this very important topic. It’s why I publish my Weekend Reads, to provide a diverse mix of news and information from around the world.
Being media and science literate is something we know many citizens around the world lack, which is why so many are caught up in conspiracy theories and misinformation sharing. A lack of trust in experts is a cornerstone issue creating this.
If you go back to any country or empire collapse in history (aka the fall of Persia/birth of Iran), the first sign of impending collapse is the experts – who deserve trust – are discredited. When that process of discreditation goes deeper and further, it does/has led to death threats, persecution, exile or death. This is because parties that want to dominate society, can only achieve this when the intellectuals (and media) who challenge their leadership are doubted, or worse… Ring any bells?
It’s so obvious to so many of us, as we’ve watched this unfold around the world, which is why anyone who can see this must not be quiet. We must stand up and speak out to drown out this nonsense. It does not take much for the worst evils of history to rise again in our world. If we let it happen, it’s on those of us who know it and stay silent.
Supporting information literacy is also about getting out of information siloes. They are so damaging and social media companies must address the problem with algorithms and the rabbit holes they are sending users down.
BUT we must also take personal responsibility for our information hygiene habits. It takes more time, more vigilance, and more commitment, however, if we are not willing to take these extra steps, we shouldn’t be sharing false information in the first place. We all mess up from time to time, but all the time, well… there is no excuse.
Just start by not trusting one media source, and read/watch opposing views. I tell my 14 year old this all the time. Adults need to understand it too.
Because if we don’t put information hygiene on the agenda, and if we don’t tackle misinformation around the pandemic, we will all be in this crisis for longer. Let’s step it up.
And finally, this is a really interesting piece of data for me, and one I regularly share in my training sessions.
The top three most trustworthy spokespeople are academics, technical experts and a “person like yourself.” This is the first time these three categories have all lost trust.
As social leaders and Social CEOs, this is a wake-up call that if you want to build and retain trust, you must participate with deep meaning and intention, be authentic, be transparent, and understand that you are in the business of earning trust. Take social leadership seriously.
If you are hesitant to participate because you don’t like what you are seeing socially, you are abdicating your responsibility to our human collective.
If you have expertise in an area that can help the world overcome misinformation and conspiracies, consider it your duty to humanity to jump in and join the conversation.
When people ask me how they can help in the world today – speak up, speak true, speak powerfully. We cannot let the negative, confusing and divisive voices continue to have an outsized presence on the social channels – because they do! We can all see where it’s taking us.
Please, don’t stand back because you don’t like what you see. Step forward so we can turn towards the powerful potential we know social media has – as a uniter not a divider. But that means more of us good people participating.
Too many stand back from social media because horrible and narcissistic participants make them feel repulsed! Why would you willingly engage in that environment? But that’s the point, right?
If we don’t, more and more distrust builds, and eventually, that will lead us all to disaster. Do we want that? I don’t and I’ll continue to speak up, hoping to encourage you to join me.
There you go. My initial thoughts following the launch of The Edelman Trust Barometer last night and the full report today. Have a read. Understand it. Work out where you can participate on an issue you care passionately about, an issue that can help heal the world’s division, so we can come together to overcome the enormous challenges we all face.
There is no time to lose.
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Until next time, I look forward to any insights, thoughts, differences of opinion to all of the above.
Without trust, we can’t fix the challenges we face and that’s why it’s a huge priority for all of us. Join me, we’ve got work to do, so let’s get on with it!
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