Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Who Are You Going To Turn To?

I believe that the role of business is to make the world a better place. It is clear to me that Governments are too unwieldy, too compromised and too distant from people to undertake this task although it was once left in their hands. The job requires focus, agility, optimism and the ability to understand people and how they can be inspired to undertake the transformational changes we need to thrive in the future. You can imagine my satisfaction when a recent Edelman Survey announced that the trend of people trusting business more than government continues. Unfortunately, this also means that the credibility of government has reached an all-time low, which is not good for any of us. In the United States, the difference between trust in business (53%) and government (38%) is the biggest since 1999 when the survey was first conducted.

Before you go off on a tangent thinking that this is an American phenomenon, the Edelman survey found that this level of trust in business is a global trend. Richard Edelman says, “Business is the most trusted institution of all in the less developed parts of the world and that’s remarkable. Why is this happening? Because business is bringing prosperity to those economies”. Certainly anyone who has worked with global companies, like P&G, know this to be true.

Another finding that pushes home the growing power of intimacy and empathy in making connections with people, is the huge trust that people place in others who are like themselves. Edelman looks at the question through the PR frame of the spokespeople who are trusted most, but there a wider implications for all kinds of communications. A ‘person like me’ turns out to be the most trusted spokesperson across the European Union, North America, and Latin America. In Asia, that ‘person like me’ is second only to doctors. We are all under peer pressure, literally!


Susan956 said...

I'm afraid I am not sold on this research or the way it is described and defined etc. I am talking about the Edelman link page. I would have to know more however I believe, at best, the results speak to a potential slice of population and not as a broader consumer/public response (necessarily) at all.

When you look at the link you see that the people interviewed are higher income (top 25%) and self reported ("report a significant interest and engagement in the media, economic, and policy affairs").

The research commences by describing "opinion makers" and yet that is not defined. Is there a spread of media magnates, government ministers, CEO's et al? There is no discussion of the sample.

The US, Europe and 'parts' of Asia are represented. None of the remainder of AsiaPac vis Australia and New Zealand, Indonesia et al are.

Business is discussed as more trustworthy than media yet media as a business is not reviewed (or media that drives and delivers impressions of business to the public et al).

So, do we really have here a selection of high income business people effectively reporting on business? Is that what this boils down to?

I find the description inadequate and I am would have liked to know what questions were posed to the participants. I somewhat dislike phone interviews (albeit very useful when interviewing people with demanding schedules) and of course they are generally quant. oriented. Your outcomes thus are often only as good as your definitions and questions.

As a comment separate to the above about 'who we can trust'. I believe that if people across the socio-economic scales were asked this question they would often select traits they value and then consider where or who or what jobs they believe those traits are most likely to be found. If I, for example, value credibility, I will seek that trait out or make that connection. The person may 'not be like you [me]' fiscally or position wise but I will tend to associate with them in terms of personality/quality traits.

One presumes Edelman sells their information and that is why they don't include a run-down of their survey questions.

This is another area I DO so wish corporations and media outlets would understand the value of academic outlook on. NOT taking such findings on face value and knowing how to set about analysing and critiquing the same. Most companies would save a load of money if they paid an in-house researcher for insight information and did this more often than paying for external agency work. This said, I believe these reports do have their use, but as starting points (most of the time) as opposed to launchpads from which to make decisions.

Kempton said...

I may be in a "glass is half empty" mood as "trust in business (53%) and government (38%)" tells me both are not doing a good job with government doing a much worst job.

Plus I wonder if the statistical sample can bias the results, "survey population included respondents who are between the ages of 35 and 64; college educated; in the top 25% of household income nationally ..." And some other statistical questions that are in the back of my mind.

Restricting to the business world, I trust Warren Buffet to do the right thing. With no restriction, I am proud to look to two Canadian leaders that "make the world a better place" -- Louise Arbour (UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (she quit her Supreme Court job to take this job knowing the last Commissioner was murdered in a car bomb)) and Senator Roméo Dallaire (former Force Commander of UNAMIR who tried to stop a war of genocide in Rwanda when the world political leaders did nothing to help). Sorry to end on a heavy note.

Kevin Roberts said...

Good points Kempton / Susan. But there’s one thing I’ve learned that almost always leads to success – the glass is *always* half full.

Susan956 said...

Kevin, I'm unsure of your comment against the research we (Kempton and I) critiqued tho I observed Kempton used the phrase you picked up.

It can be interesting to dive below the surface of someone's comments and see what drives them or what they knew of their mindset when they spoke. What bias they may have carried in to the topic for example.

Clearly I can't speak for Kempton but I felt neither + nor - as such when I commented. I could have said what I did and then sat down and had an enjoyable dialogue and lunch with Edelman. The kind of critique I offered I generally don't personalise so its not a situation of a glass being half empty, half full, brimming or frosted from where I stand. If someone employs me to review research I offer an educated perspective because it serves the employer's interests to do so. I also quite like the intellectual exercise. :)

I do however agree as a broad life personal principle (as one looks out into the world) that seeing everything as half full is a preferable perspective. Doesn't affect that I don't think to call a spade a spade. I am fulsome with praise when I believe it's deserved.

Kevin Roberts said...

Susan – A new post on this topic is on its way, stay tuned…I’m sure you will!

Susan956 said...

Ever observant, only occasionally thick as a bacon sarnie.