Feel like your customers aren’t trusting you? You’re not imagining it.

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer paints a solemn picture of how little we’re trusting each other and the institutions we used to rely on as an anchor, such as government and the media.

There’s a global deficit of trust and it’s being sharply felt in Australia, where respondents expressed deep concern about globalisation, immigration, technological change (in particular, the displacement of jobs through automation) and corruption.

Though the picture is somber, there are some important lessons to extract for those in business.

Emerging authorities

The establishment has fallen completely out of favour – we are in the upside-down.

The model has changed from paternalistic to disengaged, with a growing gap between the powerful and the dispossessed (seen below in this Edelman presentation slide).

Trust Model

Business the new leader?

77% of those surveyed expect business to lead in this new era, taking action not just for their bottom line, but to “improve the economic and social conditions in the community where it operates”.

Purpose must trump profits, if there are to be any profits to share.

Explains Richard Edelman, CEO:

“The onus is now on business, the one institution that retains some trust with those skeptical about the system, to prove that it is possible to act in the interest of shareholders and society alike. Free markets can succeed for all if business works with the people, not just sells to them.”

Edelman Australia CEO Steve Spurr says Australian business is at a crossroads, “where it has the opportunity to rebuild trust but can only do so by responding to the concerns and fears of Australians and accepting the need to do things differently.

“An overwhelming 63% of Australians want businesses to pay their fair share of taxes, they want them to have ethical business practices and to treat their employees well. It’s time for companies to do more. Business leaders must stand up for issues that matter to society.”

This trend has been glimpsed in the U.S since the 2016 Presidential election, with businesses like AirBnB, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Lyft among those speaking out against Trump policies in alignment with their company values.

Purpose must trump profits if there are to be any profits to share. Click To Tweet

Brand as media

With media trust at an all-time low, and polarising echo chambers in social media reducing our capacity to absorb and debate diverse viewpoints, businesses are in a position to split the difference.

People are looking to business as one of a few remaining interpreters of the world around them, and it’s not a position to be squandered.

As people are placing greater value on influencers (people like me) than institutions (technical experts and academics), businesses have to ensure those voices are reflected in their content and communications if they have hope of cutting through the filter bubble.

Peer and influencer voices are more valued than institutions and experts when it comes to information. Click To Tweet


Although 60% of people said they trust a search engine more than a human editor (getting your digital footprint right has never been more important), Australians overwhelmingly prefer organisations and institutions to act like human beings, not logos and faceless entities  – plain language, not jargon; spontaneous, not rehearsed; helpful, but not expertly smug.

How to become trusted

  • Live your values, communicate them and defend them
  • Share your story as you’re experiencing it to help navigate change
  • Take your communications seriously (people are paying more attention to you than the media)
  • Entertain diverse viewpoints in your teams, your content and your actions.
  • Empower your people (staff, customers and audiences)
  • Act and talk like human beings (not corporate robots or press releases)
  • CEOs need to get out of the boardroom and into customer conversations
Without trust, B2B is destined for failure

Shawn Low
Shawn has more than 15 years of content and marketing experience, working both client- and agency-sides. His diverse career has seen him work across both the B2C and B2B segments, as well as with start-ups. As Head of Content and Social for Green Hat, Shawn will drive effective content in order to meet strategic, commercial and business needs.