Richard Edelman on trust in 2020: ‘Make it happen’

The CEO shared insights into his agency’s annual Trust Barometer for a room full of executives and communicators in Chicago. His main message: It’s time for business leaders to step up.

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How to build trust

It’s been 20 years since Edelman launched its Trust Barometer in 2001.

Over that time, the report has tracked the changing public trust in four separate institutions: government, media, business and nonprofit/NGOs. However, the latest findings present a bit of a paradox for the PR industry.

Richard Edelman, who spoke to the Executive Club of Chicago on Wednesday, Feb. 12 about the latest results, put it this way: “With a rising economy, you would expect to have rising trust.” Instead, we see stagnating or declining trust, despite a record-breaking period of expansion for the U.S. economy.

The cause for this contradiction? In Edelman’s words: “Fear has eclipsed hope.”

Part of what is driving this paradox in developed markets like the U.S. is income inequality, along with fear about job losses and disruption tied to tech and automation. Where GDP growth used to be the predictor of trust, now it can be marked by the gap between the highest and lowest incomes in a country.

Image courtesy of Edelman.

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