One of the more intriguing facets of the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer concerns the credibility of spokespeople for companies and organizations. The trend lines bear watching for PR executives and communicators looking to both personalize the face of their brand and improve employee relations
The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer online survey sampled 27,000 general population respondents with an oversample of 6,000 informed publics ages 25-64 across 27 countries.
The most trusted sources of information remain people whose access may depend on what kind of relationship they have with your company: Academics and experts. They’re the most trusted sources this year (67%), up from five points from 2009, followed by technical experts, according to Edelman.
But here’s where things get interesting: After technical experts the most trusted source of information is what Edelman defines as a “person like yourself,” (62%), which grew 15 percentage points since 2009.
Little wonder that regular folks have gotten more credible as spokespeople during the same period that social media, which abhors hierarchy, has gone mainstream.
Delivering an organization’s message used to be a fairly straightforward exercise. Have the CEO or chief spokesperson share the information, regardless of the what kind of credibility that person has with stakeholders or whether he or she is media savvy. So long as that person got a bio in the first few pages of the company’s annual report.
Not in a Twitter age, though. Now, your most credible spokespeople are hiding in plain sight.
As information becomes democratized so, too, does the credibility of “regular” employees who can carry a message and, at the same time, attain consumers’ trust for the long haul.
The most trusted sources of information increasingly are the rank and file, folks who don’t have an axe to grind, and can inspire trust because when they explain a product, service or idea they’re sincere about it and unscripted.
The Edelman survey also found significant gains for regular employees, to 52% in 2014 from 32% in 2009, as the most credible spokespeople.
The credibility of CEOs grew to 43% in 2014, from 31% in 2009, but is still near the bottom rung.
That CEOs have some of the least credibility as spokespeople is not exactly earth shattering, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
It’s the rising credibility of a person like yourself and regular employees that’s likely to have a bigger impact on your communications strategy.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1