Do You Trust Your CEO?

Source: Edelman Insights

Thanks to a blog post from Jackie Huba of Church of the Customer, I came to learn about Edelman Insights Presentation titled "Key Employee Engagement Findings from Edelman’s 2012 Trust Barometer". From the survey results (graphic above), several facts seemed to pop out:

1) People are increasingly losing their trust in the heads of organisations like CEOs. This has dropped by a whopping 12% in 2012 compared to 2011.

2) Levels of trust in government officials or regulators have declined precipitously from 43% in 2011 to 29% in 2012.

3) A more moderate decline is seen in people's trust of financial or industry analysts from 53% (2011) to 46% (2012).

4) Conversely, trust in a person like oneself has grown by a whopping 22% from 43% (2011) to 65% (2012).

5) Similarly, people are increasingly trusting regular employees, up from 34% in 2011 to 50% in 2012.

OK, so people are trusting regular Joes and Jills more than the head honchos. How about corporate PR hacks like us? The story here seemed rather sad, with only 29% of executives and 21% of employees trusting corporate communications as seen below:

Source: Edelman Insights

To address this situation, Edelman proposes that companies should empower their employees to be ambassadors via social media, engage employees to build customer relationships, and have rebuild trust in the CEO through candid dialogue.

Through staff training, employees could be equipped with the right skills to communicate to their customers through honest and direct approaches, listen more closely to what customers have to say and relay those concerns back to HQ.

Similarly, CEOs - and I guess corporate communication departments - can help to strengthen trust by adopting a coversational tone in our communications, provide platforms for interactions (like forums/townhalls/tea sessions), and encourage a culture of storytelling.

As a communicator, I sometimes find it challenging to balance corporate interests with employee and customer interests. While consumer lobbyists would advocate full transparency, the truth is that there will always be sensitive or confidential information that cannot be revealed for competitive reasons.

Having said that, I believe that there are ways for us to be more open and transparent in our communications and to involve our stakeholders - employees, board members, CEOs, customers and even the media - in developing and spreading the message. Embracing such a conversational approach allows us to refine and hone our products and services based on the inputs of these important partners. However, one would still need to balance between what one should say and what one should keep hidden within one's heart.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,