Who do you trust in a time of crisis?

Who do you trust when you want information about a certain company? Experts? Your friends? The company itself? Based on a sample of 5.600 people around the world, the annual Edelman Trust Barometer is the world’s biggest survey of trust and credibility in companies. The 2012 survey has some truly surprising results and though it doesn’t include Denmark (although Sweden is included), Danish marketers and PR people ought to learn a bit.

First of all, the survey shows that the most credible people in 2012 as well as in earlier surveys are academic experts and technical experts in the company. But jumping from sixth place to third place, “a person like myself” has the biggest increase since 2004. Accordingly, CEOs and government officials decline from fourth place and seventh place to seventh and eighth place. We no longer trust company people and politicians, instead we trust friends, family and neighbours.

According to the survey, the decline of trust in CEOs and governments is related to the financial crisis and lacking trust in the financial systems, for example the collapse in the Greek economy and the impending Spanish collapse. We are more skeptical towards official institutions and we trust our peers more in a time of crisis and chaos.

Good, old fashioned newspapers work
The increasing trust in peers is also evident when people are asked about their trust in different sources of information. The trust in social media is up 75% from 2011 to 2012. Yet the most credible piece of information about a company is still traditional news. While 32 % “trust a great deal” in information about a company in the newspapers, only 14 % trust social media.

So what can marketers and PR people learn from this? Two things, I think. First, we must not underestimate the power of happy customers as ambassadors for a company in a time of crisis. Apart from experts, they are the single most credible sales people and clever companies would want to make strategies on how to benefit from their potential, and not just through social media.

Second, old fashioned newspapers are not dead although many have tried to kill them. Although we live in a digital age where everything revolves around Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, strategic press coverage is still a credible and effective tool for a company. Pitches and press releases die hard.

What do you think? What are the implications of the survey in your company?

Read the entire survey here

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