One of the most exciting opportunities we have with IABC at the moment is the potential for us to not only have IABC leadership share issues of the day to its membership, but to also build on that by empowering IABC members to speak on these issues as members in their professional and local communities.
In sharing these a few days ago with IABC leaders and with new IABC staff communication lead Tilden Katz, we thought this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer would make an excellent topic for our members to discuss.
This year’s report, issued on the cusp of the transfer of power in the United States, addresses how citizens assess the performance of politicians, business and non-governmental organizations as credible, trustworthy communicators on a number of topics and dimensions.
I’ve prepared some initial talking points below, aiming to go beneath what was said in the report itself:
- Business coming out on top with 61% percent trust tells two main stories
- Trust in institutions is generally weak. While we as business communicators can feel gratified that our work is increasingly credible, the state of trust in other institutions — like government and the NGO sector — is alarming.
- It’s important to consider a dual meaning of “trust” — that the term combines “belief in the propensity to do the ‘right’ thing” with “belief in the propensity to behave predictably in pursuit of its own interests.”
- The “infodemic” cuts two ways for business
For years, we have emphasized that businesses have a moral obligation to produce honest information. Now, we are seeing that businesses also have a business need to produce — and to consume — honest information.
Simply put, the viability of the business ecosystem is imperilled without a common base of accepted information. This is true from the transactional to the societal level. It is not far to travel from the “information bankruptcy” Edelman describes to actual financial bankruptcy without the restoration of some coherence and credibility to the content in the world’s communication channels.
- The Global Standard: No longer optional
This need for coherence and credibility highlights the need to move toward a Global Standard for business communication that addresses the integrity, immediacy and interactions through which business communication is prepared and shared.
- Business: The emerging coalition-builder
A December Edelman Trust Barometer Post-U.S. Election Flash Poll found a 39-point gap in trust in the media between Biden voters (57%) and Trump voters (18%). But business leaders have higher degrees of trust in both groups. “My employer’s CEO” was viewed as trusted by 61% each of Biden and Trump voters.
This common credibility business leaders have across the political divide represents unprecedented opportunity — and responsibility — for business leaders to become bridgebuilders and shape coalitions to address economic and social problems.
- Falling trust in employees should prompt advocacy rethink
The fourteen-point fall in trust in regular employees (from 54-40%) should prompt organization to re think the engagement of employees as advocates and ambassadors. While they remain powerful communication assets, employee-advocates need to be engaged more coherently and strategically and not be left to their own devices.
I know the journey to thought leadership is a long one. But a good number of IABC folks sharing these talking points, whether in their own articles, in LinkedIn and Twitter posts with an #IABCVoice hashtag and even in your own company publications will be a way to start 2021 off right. Please join me.
Mike Klein is a global internal communication consultant and advocate. Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, Klein is the principal of Changing The Terms and served as IABC Regional Chair for Europe – Middle East – North Africa. He is the author of countless articles and blog posts about internal communication and communication advocacy, and a book, “From Lincoln to LinkedIn.” Klein is an MBA graduate of London Business School, a BA graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and a former Communication Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council in the U.S. He currently serves on IABC’s International Trends Watch Task Force.