The Edelman Trust Barometer Spring 2020 Update has important information for UK businesses and their leaders if they want to retain or gain the trust of the public, including their key stakeholders, while navigating their way through the Covid-19 crisis.

  • 56% of people in the UK expect Business to provide economic relief and support

  • Business is not seen as meeting the needs of customers and staff on ensuring products and services are available and perceived to be doing poorly on protecting employees unable to work from home as well as behind on preparing for the economic recovery

  • CEOs are expected to be more proactive in leading their business to play its part

  • CEOs are more trusted than January 2020, but still mistrusted by a narrow majority

  • A majority of the public are unhappy with income and health inequalities and feel action needs to be taken

  • 73% of the UK public think the priority should be saving as many lives as possible even if it means the economy will recover more slowly

  • Large gains in trust have proven to be easy to quickly lose

  • Trust in traditional media as a news source has grown, but is still higher than Search engines, owned media (company comms channels) and social media

What you need to do

To regain the trust of the public and seize the opportunities revealed in other research detailed in this blog, companies need to do the following:

  • Find and action ways to help key workers and your communities – as research showed giving money is less favoured than helping practically, work out ways you can help outside of donating funds e.g. suggesting staff raise money for key worker support through sponsored activities supported and promoted by your company. Maybe lend a vehicle to support charities or other free ways to help.
  • Take and communicate more effective action in servicing customers (within local laws) and ensure staff working away from home are properly protected. This would show your company walking the usual talk about customer care and actually putting your own people before profit, not just saying it. It may cost more short-term, but if you can communicate it, it will gain you more customers – previous Edelman research found more than a third of people have started using a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way the brand has behaved since the pandemic began and those who’ve put profit first have lost business.
  • Investigate and take action on ways your company can help reduce income and health inequalities e.g. work out how to reduce your Gender Pay Gap and CEO Pay Gap, have your C-Suite sacrifice salary to give to lower-paid staff during this crisis or look at ways to improve staff health benefits or help fund research on reducing health inequalities in poorer communities and lobby for them to be actioned.
  • Publicly announce that your company will put employee and customer safety ahead of resuming pre-crisis levels of activity. Earlier Edelman research found 71% of people said if they think a brand is putting profit over people, they’ll lose trust in that brand forever. Prioritising people should also bring you new customers (see above). It will also give customers the confidence to return to your premises.
  • Use your leader more as your public spokesperson for announcing desired actions to increase CEO trust – through more interviews and announcement videos in addition to media releases and internal comms. If they’re seen to be walking the talk, trust will build.
  • Use media relations as well as your owned channels to communicate your actions – one of the benefits of media relations is the third-party endorsement from media of them publishing your story as genuine and worthwhile as well as amplifying your reach using their huge audiences. Use that to promote how you’re doing what people want because it’s part of your purpose and values.
  • Keep walking and talking – Edelman’s historic data shows trust gains can be quickly lost if there’s no further evidence that any action wasn’t a one-off bit of cynical PR without real sustained commitment behind it. So, to demonstrate the authenticity of what you’ve done, you have to keep doing it and talking about it.