Malaysia: The Changing Face of Trust

As Malaysia finally steps out of the “State of Distrust” to a neutral position among the general population in this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, an overall sense of optimism takes center stage amongst both the informed public and general population. This year, trust across all four institutions, government, business, media and NGOs, has gone up.

Riding high on the success of hosting the 29th Annual Southeast Asian Games, Malaysia currently seems to be high on nationalistic sentiment. A sentiment that was further fueled by strategic government backed initiatives in National & Economic Digital Transformation and the inauguration of the much-awaited state-of-the-art Mass Rail Transit System. All these factors added to a renewed trust in government amongst both the informed public and general population.

‘Real Journalism’ an antidote for ‘Fake News’

While Malaysia echoes the global sentiment and concern over the “rise of fake news” with over 73 percent of Malaysians worried about its negative impact, both government and regulators are actively considering options to create strict laws against it.

However, what makes “earning trust” for media even more challenging is the fact that more than 45 percent of Malaysians admit to being disengaged with major news organizations as their prime source of information, and in turn rely on social media feeds. Giving rise to the uncertainty of what is real, and what is fake, 63 percent admit to not being able to distinguish between rumors and good journalism.

Interestingly, this media’s underperformance on key tenets of trust is citied as the core reason for an overall loss in truth and trust not just within media, but how it has been impacting loss of faith in government leadership and to an extent brand and businesses too.

Business expected to lead us into a better future

This year Malaysia is only one of two countries in the Asia Pacific region in the Edelman Trust Barometer where citizens have voted overwhelmingly in favor of businesses to lead us into a better future over government institutions. As 77 percent of Malaysians believe that a CEO’s number one job is all about building trust and not just profits. While a majority of Malaysians believe that corporations need to demonstrate their commitment to long term “good for the society,” 71 percent maintain that CEOs shouldn’t wait for government, but should instead lead the change.

‘Earning Trust’ in 2018 will be about:

As the definition of how Malaysians see “media” undergoes a change, the time has come for every company to transform into a media company. Invariably, shifting rules of engagement from pure business as usual PR tactics, to informing and engaging Malaysians on a continuous basis, leveraging on the key assets of voices of authority, journalists, experts and amplifiers in order to shape truth.

Organizations would be expected to:

  • Build operations and policies that make their purpose a reality in collaboration with partnerships like NGOs
  • Defining purpose in society and demonstrating it as a guiding organizing principle
  • CEOs would need to become vocal champions of the brand beyond performance
  • Every company would need to think like a media company, constantly informing and engaging

Mazuin Zin is managing director, Edelman Malaysia.

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Vlad Shapochnikov