Last month, global communications agency Edelman published its annual Trust Barometer. One of the headline facts was that people trust businesses more than they do the Government or the media.
When we read about these surveys, instead of simply thinking “that’s interesting” and forgetting about it, as we move on with our lives, perhaps we should consider what this all means.
The way the media has changed, including the growth of social media channels and digital content like online video, has given people from all walks of life a stronger voice and a greater ability to develop a personal “brand”.
At the same time, it has opened politics and politicians up to a greater level of 24-hour scrutiny than ever before. Gone are the days of the nation sitting down to reverentially listen to the Prime Minister’s speeches, but instead they are rigorously grilled by hardened interviewers on a regular basis. The balance has shifted.
The channels available now to business are such that people in business have a broader sphere of influence. They are seen to have gone out and been successful in the “real world”, while the perception of “career politicians” is increasingly detrimental in the public eye.
Why do you think it is that an individual who is put before a camera for a video or TV interview is selected? It is for their ability to reflect those values, to build and maintain the trust in the business they represent.
Similarly, why do politicians choose to hold press conferences and make major announcements in the headquarters of big businesses or industry bodies? It adds a level of trust to see that business alignment on the screen as the announcement is being made.
Businesses and those behind them know the value of a good brand, and indeed the value of its values. Greater care is taken over brand management than ever before, because the public has greater choice and increased visibility in the way it responds to poor service or products.
The growth of social media, bloggers, review sites and the fact the average UK household owns 7.4 devices that connect to the internet – all of which give a voice to the consumer - may account for the estimated £8bn spent on advertising in the digital sphere in 2015, accounting for around half of the UK’s total advertising spend.
Many individuals will capitalise upon the public’s trust of the business with which they are associated, as its values will reflect upon them, and build a personal brand that the public trusts. Richard Branson is a case in point, as is Lord Sugar, with Amstrad, and Anita Roddick, on the back of The Body Shop. Businesses and their leaders can be as powerful an influence as celebrities, when it comes to endorsement.