Edelman Trust Barometer Results: Worry or Opportunity?

By now, most government communicators have probably seen the Edelman Trust Barometer summaries that keep highlighting that trust in government fell once again. This sounds really terrible for those of us who communicate for the government, but looking deeper into the report shows that this is actually an opportunity for us rather than a problem.

Trust in government experienced its greatest decrease in the history of this study. Government officials are now “the least credible spokespeople in the world.” Ouch. The study showed a similar sentiment for CEOs, who are similarly not trusted by the public.

So what are we supposed to do? Keep reading the report. According to the study, people trust their peers. “‘A person like me’ has re-emerged as one of the three-most credible spokespeople, with its biggest increase in credibility since 2004.”

Look, it’s no big surprise that government officials and CEOs are at a low in credibility right now. What’s exciting is that people are trusting each other again. For most organizations and government entities, there’s a great way to help out with your organizational credibility: get your people talking!

Right now is a great time to focus on internal communcation in your organization. When it’s done correctly, internal communication can lead to effective external communication. Your colleagues are on Facebook and Twitter, they talk to their neighbors, some of them have blogs and all of them have friends. Tell your colleagues what’s going on in the organization. Get them involved. Build your organizational identity and make people feel like they’re a part of it. Help build a sense of pride in the organizational mission! We see that the information our colleagues put out is more credible than what our bosses are saying, so let’s get folks talking!

I’m curious. Do any of you give social media guidance to your workforce? Are you actively encouraging your colleagues to talk about your organization? Or maybe you’re just encouraging them to follow the organizational Twitter feed and “like” the organization on Facebook. If that’s the strategy, it looks like it’s time to examine other options.

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