In its 11th year globally and fifth year in India, The Edelman Trustbarometer is all about the business of trust. The firm recently unveiled its annual survey Trust Barometer for 2011, which gauges attitudes about the state of trust in business, government, NGOs and media across 23 countries.
In conversation with exchange4media, Robert Holdheim, Managing Director, Edelman India, laid bare the facts and figures of 2011’s Trust Barometer. This survey, as he explained, was carried out every year and people were asked one simple question – Who or What do they trust. The questions are asked to the candidates over detailed telephonic interviews and take place during October-November every year.
The trust currency, according to Holdheim, was a four-fold concept – the government, the businesses, the media and the NGOS. Trust in business has gone up to 70 per cent from 67 per cent last year, according to the survey. However, only 42 per cent worldwide trusted companies that were headquartered in India. This was a staggering low compared to the 86 per cent in India who trusted India headquartered companies. The probable reason for such a skewed result is that not too many Indian companies have a global footprint. The recent scams in both public and private sectors have hit India’s trust factor. Holdheim stressed that this was exactly what India needed to work on, though he added that this trust deficit was witnessed in all the BRIC countries. Holdheim further said that the latest results showed that people trusted CEOs of companies the most of all, a good 78 per cent even more than experts in specific fields and people of their own level, and this was the highest in the Asia Pacific region.
Though skepticism in India has gone up drastically to 82 per cent, once people begin to trust a company they are willing to recommend it to friends, buy their products, even pay more for the products and buy their shares.
On the other hand, trust in media has gone down in India by 15 points in the last two years. It has come down to a 50 per cent, which, according to Holdheim, was the danger mark. When it comes to seeking information, people all over the world – and not only India – turn to Google as the first stop for information. Though newspapers come quite high up on the list for sources of information, lately, due to the scandals, trust on the fourth pillar of democracy has been on thin ice. Reflecting on the possible causes for this, Holdheim pointed to the trend of Pay-for-Play as being contributory, saying further that the ‘trust deficit’ would need to be addressed by leaders of the industry.
NGOs have upped their trust factor by 14 points to 61 per cent, moving in very close to the businesses. Holdheim noted that the NGOS were probably the bridging stone between the government and the businesses. In a lot of cases NGOs have acted as third party watchdog for big companies. NGOs in most cases act as arbitrators between the society and the government, which will be beneficial to the society in the long run.
Trust on the government is on an all time low at 44 per cent – the lowest in the Asia Pacific region. As a solution, the government can join forces with NGOs for more credibility. Rather than adversaries, NGOs should be treated as partners to be got on board.
Holdheim noted, “As much as the companies need other ways to communicate, they also need to work exclusively on their soft skills. Honesty, transparency and behaviour towards clients are becoming more and more vital.”
Clearly, as the results foretell, it is more important to be credible and human than be merely successful. The Trustbarometer runs true.