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A crisis of trust?

Posted on by Aimee

Every year, for the past 13 years, Edelman Group has conducted research into the level of trust people have in their governments, media and businesses. And, every year, the results make for interesting reading.

Not surprisingly, last year’s results showed relatively low levels of trust, as financial scandal was followed by political turmoil and a little media controversy for good measure.

In the 2013 Barometer, you would expect those levels to have dipped even further. Not least because, in the UK alone, we’ve had the Leveson enquiry, BBC Trust fall-out, a number of financial institutions accused of fraud, numerous businesses falling into administration and political scandal aplenty.

Not the case.

In actual fact, most trust levels have risen. However, this year’s take home point – we have a ‘crisis in leadership’.

Looking at the results in more depth, in most countries businesses are trusted more than government. Where businesses are distrusted, it tends to be down to fraud and dishonesty. Where governments are distrusted, it is due to incompetence. All people issues.

Interestingly, the trust levels in ethics and morality of business and government leaders are very low, meaning credibility has suffered.

But what does this mean going forward?

Simply, that we need to have faith in our leaders, our representatives, in order to have trust in our organisations.

We’ve seen finger pointing and the blame culture really come to the fore in the past 12 months and that has to stop. As PR consultants, it is our job to advise our clients on how to disseminate their messages to the interested audiences. But it is also our place to advise on how and when to respond to criticism.

There have been some fantastic examples of leadership in the past year, from Richard Branson’s approach to the First Great Western scandal, through to simple customer service responses which capture the imagination, such as Richard (one of Lego’s customer support reps) responding to young Luka Apps who lost his figure in the supermarket.

Sometimes we get caught up in the detail, the rights and the wrongs of a situation, when the reality is that a simple response and acceptance of leadership – and responsibility – is all it takes.

A crisis can be all-consuming, it can even mean the end of an organisation or individual. But, handled with credibility, gravity and a sense of humour when appropriate, a crisis may not be as big a deal as you first thought.

The key to trust…? Credibility.

So, roll on 2013 and the emergence of the credible leader.

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