Edelman’s Trust Barometer for 2012, launched yesterday globally and today with specific data for the UK, reveals a “systemic decline in trust” according to the PR agency. 

Yet for digital marketers, the growth of the receiver of trust being a ‘person like me’ could spell huge potential.

As Edelman MD of digital Marshall Manson explains, that’s a good sign as it’s the premise on which digital marketing is based. 

Back in 2009, only 31% of those in the UK said that they’d find the CEO of a company a credible source, while people said they would trust their peers 47% of the time.

In 2010, those two roles swapped places with 50% of people choosing to believe the official spokesperson for a company and only 43% opting for peer recommendation. 

This year UK CEOs again face a major hurdle in convincing the public that they should be listened to: they were the least credible public spokesperson for a business or organisation, with only 30% of respondents finding them reliable. 

More credible were academics or experts (by 73%), followed by a ‘person like me’ (60%), a technical expert (56%), or a ‘regular employee’ or ‘financial/industry analyst’ (55%).

Strangely, even with the Leveson inquiry in full force and phone-hacking still on people’s minds – media trust appears bizarrely up on the whole for the UK. Yet when that’s broken down, we see things more clearly. 68% of UK distrusts tabloids. 58% trust TV and radio news. 47% trust the broadsheets.

EML Wildfire account director Danny Whatmough points out that it’s fascinating to see that among governments, NGOs, businesses and the media, only the latter has gained in trust amongst ‘informed publics’ in the last 12 months. It’s a harsh reflection on perceived transparency amongst businesses.

63% of those in the UK also said they need to hear things three to five times before believing it. The idea of saying something as often and in as many ways as possible is nothing new but, with the plurality of media now at our disposal, is one that has fresh impetus these days.”

He also added that when we segment media into its component parts according to the results, trust in social media has seen the greatest rise – up 75%. General willingness to trust social media has increased. However, when combined with the need to hear things more than once before believing it, the importance of integration and use of every communication channel still seems to be key.

Edelman itself is facing criticism itself regarding the release of these findings from MP Tom Watson, who suggested via Twitter yesterday that a PR firm that opts to work with News International (NI) shouldn’t be relied upon to comment on the issue of trust.

Staniforth partner Jon Clements covered the issue, saying that such a statement is perhaps too simplistic. On one hand, if the request from NI was to “get us off the hook, spin it any way you want to, but don’t tell us how to run our business”, Edelman probably wouldn’t haven’t taken the job. On the other, had NI acknowledged its mistakes and asked for help – should the agency be chastised for taking on such an account?

Just as most offenders get the chance to rehabilitate themselves, so companies and organisations deserve the opportunity to put the past behind them and build a new, responsible and ethical paradigm. And if a PR firm is part of a genuine and concerted effort on the part of that company to demonstrate its contrition and willingness to change, then why not? After all, creating good will and understanding among its publics are laudable aims for a company and its PR advisers.”

The 12th annual UK survey, produced by StrategyOne, covers 25,000 ‘general population’ respondents, with 5,600 ‘informed publics’ in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) across 25 countries. The UK survey includes 1,000 adults aged over 18 and 200 ‘informed publics’.