The Edelman Trust Barometer: What Does It All Mean?

The global public relations firm Edelman recently released its annual trust barometer, and it’s full of bad news for our institutions. The pandemic, politics and social unrest have eroded trust across the board, especially in media and government. As a result, people are looking for someone or something to trust. It’s an opportunity – but only for the companies and organizations that rise to the moment. 

Management guru Brené Brown likens building trust to a jar full of marbles. Each time we do something that builds trust, in goes a marble, one by one. But the jar can lose marbles when we are inauthentic, dishonest or transactional. Filling the trust jar is not a one-and-done deal. It is a process over time.  

The marble jar metaphor works for understanding our personal relationships, as well as how institutions and leaders build trust. It’s probably no surprise that communications – what we say, and how and when we say it – go a long way toward earning trust. If you’re in leadership or communications, it’s something you should be thinking about every day, in every speech, news release or Tweet.  

At Spring Green, we counsel leaders that transparency, accountability and empathy build trust. These three principles should guide your communications with stakeholders. Trust is why, in a crisis, companies need to own their mistakes. It is why organizations must be open about their environmental impacts and DEI gaps and how they’re working to improve. It’s why leaders need to demonstrate they understand and identify with their workforce – rather than stay tucked away in the C-suite. 

Trust builds value. Increasingly, employees, investors and consumers alike want to be associated with companies that are working toward a purpose. As Hamilton says to Burr in the musical, “If you stand for nothing … what will you fall for?” Stakeholders want to feel confident your organization is on the right side of history and that you do what you say you’ll do. 

Over the past two tumultuous years, we all felt at some point like we were “losing our marbles.” Now is the time to refill that jar. Transparent, accountable, empathetic communications can go a long way toward building sustainable trust.  

By Melissa Mathews