Tony Gnau

Who Do You Trust? The Edelman Trust Barometer Surprise

By: Tony Gnau | February 15, 2016 | 

Who Do You Trust? Edelman's 2016 Trust Barometer Surprise

By Tony Gnau

Trust. Can you think of a more valuable commodity in business?

It’s something I frequently talk about with clients.

You may make awesome widgets. You may provide an incredible service. It doesn’t matter what you sell: We’re all in the trust business.

That was a big part of the discussion recently at a luncheon put on by the Executives’ Club of Chicago.

Richard Edelman was on-hand to talk about the findings in his company’s latest edition of the Trust Barometer.

Full Disclosure

Okay, first thing’s first. The Executives’ Club is a client.

I just produced a series of videos for them… hence… how I got my ticket to this event.

Now… onward!

What the Trust Barometer Shows

This year’s Trust Barometer shows something amazing.

The biggest increase in trust hasn’t been in the media or NGOs or the government… it’s been in the private sector.

The general public wants businesses to lead the way when it comes to societal issues.

More specifically… Edelman says the data shows people want CEOs to be more visible.

They want to know the person leading a business.

They want to know their values and where they stand on social issues.

Yeah… Right

Many of you who deal with CEOs are probably rolling your eyes right now.

As a group, CEOs aren’t the most willing to share information like that.

They play things pretty close to the vest.

Unfortunately for them, this year’s Trust Barometer shows people believe opening up about personal values is important to building trust in a leader.

And it’s not just the general public who believes this.

It applies to the people working for the CEO as well… his or her own team members.

We Can Do This

The solution?


Oh, how I love hearing that!

Edelman encouraged all the CEOs attending the luncheon to become their own media company… to tell their own stories.

Gini Dietrich has been preaching this for years.

He told the CEOs flat-out… the public doesn’t know who you are and you don’t talk about things important to them (values), so why should they trust you?

He said CEOs are looked at as a class, not people.

That’s why they aren’t trusted, and that’s why they need to start telling their own stories.

Let’s Make Some Videos

Okay, putting on my video producer hat here.

Can anyone think of a better way for CEOs to share their stories and the stories behind their business than video?

It’s hard to beat.

Earning trust through authentic marketing videos is possible.

Video puts a real face on a company, and while there are many ways to do it… here are a couple.

Meet the CEO

First, if the CEO has some personality, let him or her show it.

Get out of the board room and out among the company’s team members.

Let’s hear about what they’re doing to make the world a better place.

I’m not talking about, “We donate to the United Way.”

That’s great, but what I’m talking about is highlighting things the company is doing to exact real change in the world.

Does the company have standards on the types of businesses they will work with?

Do they refuse to work with other businesses/governments that don’t treat their people well?

Where is the company taking a stand?

How is that stand changing the way others do business?

Let Team Members Shine

Is the CEO a little camera shy?

If so, empower other team members as company spokespeople.

It needn’t be another executive. It can be anyone.

Someone who works on the front lines, the receptionist, or someone in IT.

Who’s the person at the company everyone loves?

The person who puts a smile on everyone’s face?

That person can be the face of the company.

What’s This Do?

Highlighting the CEO, other team members, talking about big issues… it humanizes the company.

It’s not something that happens overnight. We’re talking about a long-term strategy.

The best part is we’re living in a time when businesses can do this themselves.

They don’t need the traditional media any more.

They can become their own media company and broadcast these stories.

Bottom Line

It’s not a matter of can they do it.

The issue is, are they willing to make the commitment?

If they decide to, the data shows the public will respond.

image credit: shutterstock

About Tony Gnau

Tony Gnau is a three-time Emmy-winning journalist. He is also the founder and chief storytelling officer at T60 Productions, a video production company specializing in PR and marketing videos.

  • howiegoldfarb

    So much to say Tony!
    Not being someone who trusts Edelman and the fact this advice can benefit their business always has me cautious.

    I think the answer is yes and no. It really depends on the company. And I think to me not being visible on social media or blogs is ok. As long as they are visible on the news and allow interviews and the company has a solid story area on their site.

    So a local company only in Chicago or a burb the CEO can be out in front on communit issues. The CEO of McDonald’s can not. That person can not reach many people unless they are actually in the Paid 30 Sec Spots for the brand (like Dave from Wendys was). No blogs or social media has the reach to have millions or even 100k’s of customers ever see any content from a CEO.

    So for those brands focusing on the local customer experience and having the workers at each location be the ones who give the brand it’s community outreach is more important.

    Lastly if you are the CEO of a shitty company like Walmart you better not come out to be egged. LOL

    • Fair enough! The thing that I actually liked hearing was the “telling your own stories” part. I’m fine with the CEO stepping out front and center, but I like it even more when they find team members to take on those roles. Not company spokespeople… but folks on the front lines.
      –Tony Gnau

  • I love this! Video gives us such a great ability to really become people (vs. an “organization”) anytime you can break that barrier it is a win for communications and trust. It changes the dynamic and relationship you have with your consumer.

    Great breakdown of the many easy ways video can be integrated into any organization’s plan

    • Thanks Laura… no surprise I would focus in on the video aspect of this story. 🙂
      –Tony Gnau

  • janetlfalk

    Janet Falk