The Edelman Trust Institute sat down with Edelman Gen Z employees who work with clients across different sectors to hear their perspectives on findings from the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer.

These interviews have been edited for brevity & clarity.

Ellie Smith, Edelman Trust Institute: What’s your experience with using scientists as trusted spokespeople when working with a client to introduce a new innovation?

Fortuna Osorio: My two main clients are based in the food industry. In Mexico there is a very specific culture toward what we eat and how it is produced. Something we've noticed with clients is that when we're trying to get the consumer to trust that the fruit they're buying is clean and they don't have to clean it themselves, they usually trust scientists and the people behind all the work rather than a spokesperson that's from another area. So when you tell the consumer that the scientists behind the innovation in the food that you’re eating say that it's clean, that there's a process that guarantees the quality, the consumer feels very safe.

ES: People say that business, NGOs, government, and media hearing people's concerns and letting them ask questions is a top action for earning their trust. So based on that insight, how would you advise a client to listen to people?

FO: Because of the nature of our clients, people go to social media. They say, “I have this problem with X product” or “I have this problem with the company.” When the company is answering, sometimes we ask, “What do you think we should do to improve the problem?” The person is tagging you on social media, so they want you to see it, and they might feel empathy with you because you're asking them a question. When the company asks you questions on how they can improve and what your worries are, you're building empathy and the person leaves behind their resistance towards whatever it is that they have a problem with, like an innovation. They're going to be more open to understanding you, rather than just resisting and maybe complaining, because you're asking them a question. It shows that the company cares.

ES: As someone who works day in and day out with brands, how do you think that they can build trust in innovations?

Bianca Brown: There was an interesting point in the Barometer about the desire for businesses to work with government on innovation. That sort of partnership is the key to building trust. We know that people are more trusting of businesses and governments when they work together, so brands can take ownership of that by creating the right partnerships. These should be bigger partnerships – people with more scale who can lend credibility to whatever they're doing. I think that could be a key trust builder in implementing innovation. So not just any partnerships, but the right partnerships with the right scale, can help with trust and credibility.

ES: As a Gen Z employee of Edelman, and as a Gen Z person more generally, what are your top takeaways from these findings?

BB: Gen Z can, at times, be distrustful of larger institutions who are key players in emerging technology and innovation. It'll be interesting to see in 2024 specifically as society tries to navigate mass adoption of innovation, how Gen Z can be a creative force, utilizing innovations to build enthusiasm for them. Maybe Gen Z could be a key to closing trust gaps, to sharing information and combating misinformation. We know they're super good at being global activists. They seek out truth in ways that other cohorts in history have not. And so maybe they can fill the gap that we're witnessing that has been brought to light by the Barometer. And soon, those trusted scientists, those peer voices are going to be Gen Z. There's all those layers and overlaps that will be so interesting to witness this year and even in the next few years.

ES: As someone who works in the tech space, what did you take away from the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer – particularly when it comes to AI?

Allen Pham: I am a techno-optimist (for better or worse) and believe we can solve many of humanity’s most urgent challenges with innovation. Whether that's responding to the climate crisis or enhancing productivity with new technologies, innovation is critical. I strongly believe in AI’s potential, but also think with the rapid acceleration of the technology and how people are deploying it, we're not regulating and developing responsible use policies quickly enough. But unlike other technologies that came before it, AI is advancing at such a rapid pace that it’s become much more difficult – nearly impossible – to deliver proactive solutions that everybody can agree on.

ES: When respondents are confident that innovations are effectively regulated, they are more likely to embrace each innovation. How can we improve regulation of tech innovations?

AP: The onus really isn't just on regulators. It’s about companies and enterprises making an investment. That ties in with a takeaway in the Trust Barometer that people want public and private partnerships on introducing emerging technologies. Whether that's in AI regulation or climate policy or energy transition, all stakeholders need to continue to increase their investment in building trust with one another so that we can have fruitful conversations and policies that make sense for everyone. Regulation and governance really aren't a one-way street. We, at the end of the day, need to find better ways to work with one another, and to be open to listening. The key is establishing and nurturing fruitful public-private partnerships that can ultimately improve the public’s trust in technology.

ES: What do you hear from clients about how they want to use AI? What are they excited about and what are they hesitant about or challenged by?

Aliya Mahimtura: Clients want to use AI because AI is the new big thing, but I don't think they understand it completely. They’re looking to build an idea for using AI rather than thinking of an idea where AI fits in naturally. I think that's the state we're in in India, at least. I agree with a lot of what is in the Trust Barometer report. Clients are interested in using AI, but there's a fear because it can get out of your control, in a sense. If we take an idea with AI to them, they're very excited by it, but then they're like, “Will it go wrong?” Every client is looking at examples of what another brand did. You're always nervous unless you've seen an example and see that it has been successful.

ES: What have you learned from working with technology brands about how to successfully introduce innovations into society?

AM: I think that it's looking for the gap. Is it something that consumers are looking for? Is it ease in commute? Or ease in getting certain information? Or is it something else that the brand can give us? Every tech company is trying to make things easier – whether it's a phone that works better or something else. I think that the basis of innovation is solving for consumer needs that exist. That's what they should look at.