Trust in 2019

Trust is not static. It ebbs and flows around our lives and culture, finding a home where it feels valued. The perceived safe havens where we put our trust are either proven to be worthy through their actions, or found lacking, and the cycle continues. The trend that we see emerging from long term studies of trust, such as the Endelman Trust Barometre, is that humans are very sensitive to who and what we trust, and the return we expect from the social contract we apply to that relationship. There is great value in understanding that relationship, attracting trust and becoming trustworthy. But, as your audience’s mood changes, so must how you prove yourself, or risk being left behind.

Trust is vital to the relationship you have with your audience/customers, allowing both parties to make decisions based on shared mutual interest/understanding.

In this post I review a variety of recent leading trust related reports and commentaries to help you better understand where your audience is placing its trust and how you can help position yourself as a trustworthy organisation they will want to engage with.

Vertical to horizontal trust shift continues

As documented by Endelman, for the past decade we have seen a significant shift of trust away from top-down, vertical, relationships to peer-to-peer horizontal relationships, fueled by the rise in social media and the connections the internet enables us to create. At the same time as the perceived trustworthiness of institutions (NGOs, Government, Banks, Media) erodes, trust has shifted to our employer as a figurehead. As with all trust relationships, there is a contract; we want our employer to have values that reflect our own and have a social purpose that it actively pursues. We also want our employer to listen to us and speak up on issues that we hold dear and help improve the lives of those around us. 

Another key trend from the 2019 report was a growing level of worry and pessimism, with only 20 percent of people feeling like the system was working for them. With this pessimism comes an urgent desire for change and a growing move toward engagement and action. This has brought a significant surge in the public’s consumption of news, “40 percent not only consume news once a week or more, but they also routinely amplify it. But people are encountering roadblocks in their quest for facts, with 73 percent worried about fake news being used as a weapon.”

Privacy concerns take hold

Concerns over privacy, particularly when it comes to technology, have been bubbling away for a number of years but in 2018 they took hold and drove some significant shifts in reputation and perceived trustworthiness. According to the 2018 Norton LifeLock Cyber Safety Insights Report, nearly three out of four Americans (72 percent) are more alarmed than ever about their privacy, making it America’s top social concern.

Facebook, Google and Apple all saw their reputations drop significantly as the result of various privacy issues. As reported in the 2019 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient, which measures the reputations of the 100 most visible companies in America as perceived by the public, Facebook fell from 51 in 2018 to 94 in the 2019 list. Apple fell from 29 in 2018 to 32 in 2019 (it stood at #1 in 2012) and Google fell from 28 in 2018 to 42 this year.

In a survey conducted by Survey Monkey 66 percent of consumers said they are willing to dump data-collecting apps if the information collected is unrelated to the app’s function.

Despite these concerns, those surveyed for the Cyber Safety Insights Report see the value of data sharing. While concerned about their privacy, many are willing to sell or give away certain personal data, including Internet search history (20 percent would give away for free, 35 percent would sell) and location (19 percent would give away, 36 percent would sell). This bodes well for organisations that rely on data to operate their business; the challenge is to prove that data collected is managed securely, and they can be trusted.

So - what does 2020 hold?

The trends predict that the next 12 months will be shaped by more of the same - which is good for any organisation looking to improve its value and resilience through attracting the trust of its audience, nurturing it and doing what is required to retain it. The rules are relatively simple (though often take time and commitment for larger organisations to shift towards):

  • Make it a priority (if you haven’t already) to understand what values are important to your audience/customers. 

  • Address any areas where you are at risk of falling short on the expectations your audience/customers have of you - if it’s important to them it needs to be important to you as well.

  • If you collect any data from your customers be transparent when it is collected, communicate in plain English what it is used for and what steps you take to safeguard it. 

  • Consider the Trust contract your staff have with you - your actions reflect on them and vice-versa. By representing their values and taking positive action within your community, you will improve and strengthen your internal culture.

  • Review who you work with, suppliers and professional service providers. Align with organisations that share your values, and have robust policies to safeguard the Trust that is put in them. Help each other tell your stories and look for opportunities to display how you are both nurturing the trust that is put in you.

If you are just starting your journey to building lasting trust then I can highly recommend the excellent CEO’s Guide to Building Trust published by Georgain Partners and its ‘The 11 Principles of Trust’ document as a great first read. The Endelman website is also an excellent resource.

Paul Jennings