Edelman Trust Barometer 2008

This morning we launched the results of the Edelman Trust Barometer 2008 for Ireland. Here is the press release.

The annual survey of opinion formers in 18 countries reveals that NGOs are the most trusted institution for the second year in a row in Ireland. Trust in religious institutions in Ireland has risen, while trust in business is holding its own and trust in government is declining. Media fares well as a trusted source of information.

Here are my thoughts on this year’s research results.

Companies based in Ireland are the eighth most trusted internationally. Countries like Russia, China, etc at the other end of the scale lack in trust because of concerns about the quality of goods manufactured there and poor working standards. The whole China toy recall is interesting from this perspective.

People who don’t trust a company are likely not to buy its products and share neagtive opinions about it. Again sounds obviously, but last year Northern Rock was a good example of this. Despite what the bank was saying about the security of people’s money, there were huge crowds trying to get their cash out.

People are increasingly putting their faith in experts rather than company spokespeople, which is interesting to see given the huge amount of press the likes of McWilliams and Hobbs have gotten over the past few years.

The technology industry is the most trusted industry for the second year in a row. This can be attributed to the huge importance we put on the contribution the likes of HP, Microsoft and Google make to the Irish economy. Also there were a number of developments in the tech world that captured the public’s imagination last year – launch of iPhone, One Laptop Per Child Project, the release of Halo 3, etc.

With regards to the low level of trust put in bloggers and social networks, there are a couple of things to note:

  • Blogs are mainstream. When people visit them, people don’t distinguish between a blog and a website. A couple of girls in the office are regular visitors of Beaut.ie, but ask them if they read any blogs and they’ll say no.
  • A number of bloggers regularly feature in the mainstream media now like Damien Mulley and Cian O’Flaherty. They are viewed as authorities on their various subjects, not simply as bloggers.
  • There is a generational gap. The people surveyed for the research had to fit a certain demographic, including having to be aged between 35-64. Having discussed internally, I had an interesting conversation with someone who said that he would never dream of disclosing so much personal information online. This behaviour is a foreign concept to him, even though his daughter is fully embraced in online culture. As a result a generational gap is evident

What’s the advice I would offer after reading the research? Simple, people are increasingly turning to a variety of sources for information and don’t make decisions simply based off what they read in the paper or on a blog. There is a lot of hype about online communication, some people would lead you to believe that you should be shifting your efforts from traditional comms to social media. The reality is that social media should be seen as a complimentary medium of communication as opposed to a replacement. If you have a message which is interesting/newsworthy, you should use the best mix of channels available to communicate with your audience.

Other interesting tidbits to come through from the international research as highlighted by Stephen Davies and in the international release (pdf):

Use of web-based information sources (e.g., online forums, social networking, video-sharing sites), is particularly high in the countries which have typically had the most government control over media, such as China and Russia.

The majority of young opinion elites in these two countries are using online forums and social networking sites to get information about companies.

Wikipedia ranks as the No. 2 source of credible information among 25-to-34-year-old opinion elites in the United States, by 55% of respondents.

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6 Responses to “Edelman Trust Barometer 2008”  

  1. 1 Paul Seaman

    We need to ask some tough questions of this survey. Edelman: By a 3:1 margin, respondents say that government should intervene to regulate industry or nationalize companies to restore public trust.
    PS [Me]: Regulation and nationalisation are profoundly different things. And both come in lots of forms. The question and answers are sort of meaningless.

    So, we’re a bit short of people to trust just now. Good, one might say. A bit more scepticism (a bit less trust) might have kept us safer all along.

    Fact is lots of firms have retained the trust they need. And you could go further: we do in some sense still trust banks, since they are still doing most of what most of us ever used them for.

    If people are not buying cars or houses, a lack of trust has nothing to do with it. The problem is a shortage of money and credit. We can’t have it both ways. We don’t trust banks now because they were so profligate before. Being mean makes them hateful, but more trustworthy. More here:


  2. 2 Piaras

    @Paul – We haven’t released the Irish results of the Trust Barometer yet, the post you are commenting on refers to the report we launched in January 2008. Presume you are just commenting on all blogs about the Trust Barometer?

    From the topline results I’ve seen thus far I’ve seen a call for greater regulation, but not nationalisation as you refer to. Similarly the level of trust in business has fallen but trust in business as an institution remains higher than Government, in Ireland at least – I can’t comment on other countries results

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