We are in an epidemic of misinformation – trust in all information sources hit record low

Every January, global communications firm, Edelman, launches the Edelman Trust Barometer – the largest global survey on trust in business, government, media and NGOs. The survey gathers data from more than 33,000 people across 28 countries.

2020 saw an unprecedented year for the world that has put the sharing of information firmly under the spotlight.

The global pandemic, a turbulent political landscape and increasing societal fears has led to a rise in people seeking information and reassurance from sources they trust.

In their search for the truth, only one in four people practice what’s known as good information hygiene, with 28% admitting to sharing or forwarding news items they thought were interesting, without careful evaluation of the information they were consuming.

The spread of false information is reaching epic proportions and increasing societal tensions, which may explain why trust in all information sources are at a record low.

With societal leaders suspected of lies and misinformation, spokespeople losing credibility and news organisations increasingly seen as biased, it comes as little surprise that business is now the last remaining institution seen as being both competent and ethical.

76% of respondents now place most trust in their employer, putting business leaders and CEOs under increasing pressure to behave consistently, ethically and responsibly with the information they create and share.

The evolving reliance on employers and the need for a good communication strategy is further illustrated by the survey’s findings on employee expectations. Within the space of one year, employees consider regular communication and job skills training programmes to be 44% more important to them than before the pandemic.

Businesses are expected to fill the void left by government, with 66% of respondents thinking that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for government to impose change upon them.

The survey states that businesses gain the most trust by being guardians of information quality, and 86% of participants expect CEOs to publicly speak out about issues such as the pandemic, job automation and societal and community issues.

Companies generate trust when they perform well in the following areas:

  • Embracing sustainable practices
  • Robust Covid 19 health and safety response
  • Driving economic prosperity
  • Long term thinking over short term profit

The survey found that success from information bankruptcy will require institutions to develop in the following ways:

  1. Businesses: Embrace their expanded mandate. CEOs must lead on important issues, from sustainability and systemic racism to upskilling.
  2. Lead with facts, act with empathy. Societal leaders must have the courage to be straight talking, but also empathise and address people’s fears.
  3. Provide trustworthy content. All institutions must provide truthful, unbiased, reliable information.
  4. Don’t go it alone. Businesses, government, NGOs and others must find a common purpose and take collective action to solve societal problems.

There’s no doubt that business is going to play a fundamental role in our rapidly changing world, and all businesses, regardless of size, will have their part to play in creating a positive future.

Change can be uncomfortable and knowing where to begin is often a daunting prospect. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be looking in more detail at some of the key findings from the survey, offering practical tips and advice to support your business on its journey. We’d love to know what you think about the findings from Edelman’s survey? Let us know at hello@adpr.co.uk. You might also be interested to read our blog on fake news here. If you like some help with increasing engagement within your business, check out our Confident Communication Planning product.