The U.S. in 2012 appears to be a nation of distrusters. This isn’t too surprising during a volatile economy or in the wake of last summer’s debt debacle. But what is surprising is how much more the public expects business to do in order to be trusted and in turn, earn the right to lead.
The Trust Barometer data show that 76 percent of the broad public expects business to not only engage in ethical practices but also to connect with and listen to consumers directly. In other words, how a business engages with society is equally important to its operational functions, including financial returns and innovation. Yet, a chasm exists between what the public expects and what it believes it’s getting; only 42 percent of the public say business is delivering on its expectations.
This chasm is actually a huge opportunity. There are more channels than ever before for companies to connect directly with their stakeholders. Moreover, the rise of the employee and “a person like me” as a trusted source means that companies already have an army of ambassadors that can be empowered and deployed. In today’s communications world, engaging employees and activist consumers is no longer an optional sport. In order to earn the license to lead, businesses must be authentic, transparent and engage consistently with their stakeholders. These core steps are critical to rebuilding the state of trust in our nation.
Matthew Harrington is Edelman’s U.S. President & CEO