Submitted by Edelman
Fifty-one percent of U.S. opinion leaders—business-savvy, college-educated individuals with incomes of more than $75K or equivalent—now trust U.S. business “to do what is right,” up from 41% in June 2002 and 48% in January 2003. By comparison, European opinion leaders’ confidence in business rose to 40%, up from 35% in January 2003. Trust in business is strong in both China (50%) and Brazil (60%). The Edelman Trust Barometer, which is being presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, highlights that U.S. companies are the least trusted in Europe (38%) and French-based companies are the least trusted in the U.S. (34%).
“Despite the corporate scandals of the last few years, the image of business is proving resilient with a stronger global economy and tougher government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley in the U.S.,” said Richard Edelman, President and CEO, Edelman. “Now business has an opportunity to take a lead on key global issues, such as fair trade, intellectual property rights and obesity. American corporations must particularly focus on building credibility in Europe, by emphasizing their global brands, while engaging in meaningful dialogue with local stakeholders and in partnership with governments and NGOs.”
Commenting on Edelman’s Trust Barometer, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, Associate Dean of the Yale School of Management, said “This survey profoundly shows the international image challenge to U.S. CEOs. The rest of the world sees these great firms in a far more skeptical light than at home, no matter how ubiquitous their products. Today’s “new breed” of CEOs needs to be global leaders by being conscious of local cultures and sensitivities.”
Trust in government also increased in the U.S. and Europe. Forty-eight percent in the U.S. expressed trust in their government, up from 39% in January 2003. In Europe, trust is 31%, up from 25% in January 2003. Fifty-four percent in Brazil and 67% in China expressed trust in their respective governments.
The Bush administration is the least trusted government in key global markets. Twelve percent of opinion leaders in Germany, 13% in France, 20% in Brazil, and 21% in the UK trust the Bush administration to “do what is right.” Sixty-six percent of Germans are less likely to purchase U.S. products because of the Bush administration, and 65% are less likely to purchase British products because of the Blair government. In France, 64% are less likely to purchase U.S. products, and 59% are less likely to purchase British products due to the current administrations. Opinion leaders’ trust in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) remains strong, particularly in Brazil (64%) and Europe (41%), where they are the most-trusted institutions. Two of the top four brands in Europe are NGOs (Amnesty International and World Wildlife Fund), and they are ranked among the most trusted brands in the U.S.
The study found that in every market, tangible corporate behaviors drive trust, such as “a history of delivering top quality products and services” and “listening to customer attitudes and opinions on satisfaction.” The most credible source for daily news is national country and language-specific media, such as the BBC, which is first choice of 70% in the UK. Television is the first “most turned-to” source of “trustworthy information.”
”Colleagues,” “friends and family,” and “regular people, like yourself,” plus experts who are seen as having no vested interest in the welfare of a company—academics, doctors and representatives of NGOs—are the most trusted spokespersons. In the U.S. and Europe, fewer than two in every 10 people said that CEO/CFOs are credible sources of information.
"You can't buy credibility with just a fat advertising budget, so you need to engage the public -- and employees -- with every available tool, and in language they understand,” said Michael K. Deaver, Edelman's vice chairman. “Successful companies will avoid CEO-speak and communicate with their target audience through their national media using credible third parties, and directly via the Internet."
Edelman Trust Barometer Key Findings
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About the annual Edelman Trust Barometer
The fifth survey was conducted through telephone interviews among 1200 opinion leaders: 400 in the United States; 450 in Europe - 150 each in the United Kingdom, France and Germany; 200 in China and 150 in Brazil between December 2003 and January 2004 by StrategyOne. Opinion leaders are defined as being between 35-64 years, college educated with a household income of more than $75,000 in the U.S. and the equivalent in Europe. In addition, opinion leaders report a significant interest and engagement in the media, economic and policy affairs. The interviews were conducted via telephone and averaged 25 minutes in duration.
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