Edelman Trust Barometer 2016: Purpose-Driven Brands Engender More Trust

Given the Trust Barometer’s findings that the general public is (re)turning to the business sector to solve “big problems” it might not be surprising to discover that having the right focus matters for both a business and its leaders, for action impacts trust. 45 percent attribute a business’ contribution to the greater good as the reason that their trust in business has grown. Conversely, of those whose trust in business decreased, half cited a business’ failure to contribute to the greater good as the main driver.

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I think there is a strong impetus for brands and organisations today to tap deeper into their brand purpose and corporate narrative – and communicate this through their leaders and employees. The Barometer’s findings reinforce this: The public is responding positively to CEOs trying to realize the dual mandate of profit and societal benefit, as CEO trust has risen substantially in the past five years to 48 percent.

At the same time, organisations and leaders need the help of their employees, whose trust levels (52 percent) are on the rise. Respondents are more likely to trust an employee compared to a CEO for information on treatment of employees (48 percent versus 19 percent) and information on business practices and crises (30 percent versus 27 percent).

A strong brand purpose and corporate narrative is also valuable for internal engagement and morale. When business—and more specifically when the CEO—is involved in societal issues, employee advocacy and engagement increases. When a CEO is engaged in addressing societal issues, an employee’s motivation to perform escalates by 22 points. Similarly, an employee’s willingness to stay working for the company climbs by 22 points, and inclination to recommend the company as an employer grows by 25 points.

According to Kathryn Beiser, global practice chair of Edelman’s Corporate practice, “Business can be a big part of the solution because it is apolitical, fast, and tracks its progress. Now is the time to lead from the front with the support of their employees and passionate customers. No longer can business leaders focus on short-term goals. The new model CEOs are taking action by addressing the issues of our time, and taking a personal interest in the success of society. Stakeholders expect business to have a solid and steady focus on financial returns, but also on actions around key issues such as education, healthcare and the environment.”

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