The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that respondents are increasingly reliant on a “person like yourself”, who, along with a regular employee, are significantly more trusted than a CEO or government official. On social networking and content-sharing sites, respondents are far more trusting of family and friends (78 percent) than a CEO (49 percent).
“This year’s data reinforces the trusted role that search and social technology platforms play in taking a fragmented landscape of published content and re-aggregating it in a fashion that often directly reﬂects an individual’s worldview. The data reinforces the need to build integrated communications programs that map the total journey stakeholders take to consume information,” opines Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist.
In sync with the emergence of a widening trust gap, inﬂuence today decidedly rests in the hands of the mass population. The net result is a new phenomenon where the most inﬂuential segment of the population (or 85 percent of the population) is at the same time the least trusting. This reality stems from the fact that “a person like yourself,” or an average employee, is far more trusted than a CEO or government oﬃcial. In fact, a person like yourself is almost twice as trusted as a government oﬃcial.
Peer-inﬂuenced media—including search and social—now represents two of the top three most-used sources of news and information. Both search and social outrank every traditional source of information, with the exception of television, in terms of frequency of use. And increasingly, peers inﬂuence purchasing decisions, with 59 percent saying they’ve recommended a company to a friend or colleague in the last year, and according to the 2015 EARNED BRAND study, 75 percent saying that they made a decision about a brand based on a conversation with a peer.
The Barometer shows that trust in employees as credible spokespeople for companies is on the rise: in 2016, 52 percent agree that employees are a credible source of information—four points greater than a year ago.
In several areas, employees are viewed as the most trusted sources of information, particularly when it comes to communicating on ﬁnancial earnings and operational performance, a business’ practices or handling of a crisis, and how it treats employees and customers. In each of these areas, they outrank a company CEO, senior executive, activist consumer, academic, and media spokesperson as far as trust and credibility.
“Virtually no spokesperson is more trusted than a company’s own employees. And yet, one out of every three employees doesn’t trust his or her own company. For nearly every company, deeper engagement with employees is a low hanging fruit—and a direct avenue to growing trust in business, at the organizational level, and at the institutional level,” said Michael Stewart President & CEO, Europe & CIS for Edelman.