[Video] It’s on Community to fix the Cycle of Distrust | 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

The Edelman Trust barometer is one of the largest annual reports businesses can use to gauge the general public’s response toward our activities. We can use it to identify huge macro-trends in public relations, marketing, social media, cyber security, and global pressures.

In this video, I’m breaking down what the 2022 Trust Barometer’s main takeaways are and discussing the methodology behind it. But in the blog below, I’m also going to dig a bit deeper for further analysis. Be sure to read on after you watch the video to see how this directly relates to community!

In This Blog

What is the Edelman Trust Barometer?

For 12 years since the start of web 2.0, concepts of “trust” have become increasingly difficult to quantify and increasingly critical in the health of democracy, virtual spaces, and economic outcomes. As we will see in the Trust Barometer report, the overall distrust of our primary institutions is creating a significant burden and responsibility on the private sector. As of this year, all businesses, especially community-led organizations, are responsible for providing information and protecting data security themselves. This is a terrifying responsibility as private organizations are neither equipped to do, nor ethically cleared to do so healthily. We have some work to do.

The Edelman trust barometer has, for 22 years, been the annual answer to how businesses are identifying macro-trends. The Barometer is very simply a 30-minute interview survey of over 30,000 respondents all over the world, that breaks institutional trust down into its core components and then assesses what people think of each institutional sector – government, business, nonprofits, and NGOs. 

  • Businesses use the Edelman Trust Barometer to come to ground on what their next year’s business may look like because it easily determines how difficult it will be to convert a lead.
  • Public Relations Experts use the report to understand how their brands measure up to the public’s eye.
  • Marketers use the barometer to change how they will approach audience research, segmentation, brand voice and copy.
  • Community Managers can use the Edelman trust barometer to understand where they need to “pick up the slack” for the general populations’ information diets and to understand their users a bit better. How hard do the brand and its stakeholders need to work to attain a general understanding and basis of trust? You can also implement your own community reports and social listening models off of the Edelman survey and interview process to create a more robust understanding of your community’s alignment with your mission.

What has business Trust Looked like in the past?

22 years of trust from the edelmans trust barometer leeding to the current year's statement of a Cycle of Distrust that businesses must root themselves out of.,

Well, that’s not good. 

To understand how the business sector got where we are, it’s critical that we talk about the development of the internet and its role in democracy, economics, and marketing.

What are the 5 most important findings for Community?

  1. It was the internet’s fault, specifically social giants, that traditional media and government lost its trust
  2. Distrust is the default emotion for the general public. Peer-conversation is the only cure to skepticism.
  3. Communities provide a probable but fragile solution to growing global distrust. We cannot allow black-hat marketing and community tactics to drive cycles of distrust in our communities.
  4. It’s on Community Managers and tech platforms to break media-bubbles and fight fake news
  5. Brands must now lead in Social/economic justice. We can no longer afford NOT to take hard positions on socio-political topics

A list is all well and good, but now we need to break this down…

1. This Cycle was the internet’s fault

I’ve written a much longer, and better explanation of this here how this happened but here’s the gist of why it occurred.

  1. For the whole of the 19th and 20th century people received their news through trusted sources who had a responsibility to vett their information, and were openly challenged for saying specific things.
  2. When the internet came about those same traditional sources had some sway but anyone could purchase a domain and create content if they had the money.
  3. When web 2.0 happened anyone could say anything they wanted. Social platforms like Facebook bowed out of the responsibility to vett information because they did not believe it was their right to censor the first amendment. Instead they did so using uncontrollable algorithms.
  4. Those algorithms selected what information was spread not through a network of well-meaning peers and discourse, but by selecting what went viral and provided the most marketable information.
  5. These platforms then sold that information and spurred a cycle of extreme polarization in messages, across several forums and created “media bubbles” that people were driven more and more in to.
  6. Private media and the economic sector arrested control of the media narrative from the traditional media, and then did not replace the safeguarding vett-process in place to assess and criticize messages. Fake news happened.

What we find now is a cycle of distrust, especially between media and government. We are at a new low level of trust. By contrast businesses and NGOs are seen as new foundaries. It’s a crisis point for media and fake news is the core problem.

Richard Edelman – Results of the 2022 trust barometer

2. Distrust is the default emotion for the general public

Following the sequential breakdown of institutional trust via the private sector, fake news, and the internet’s dilapidating processes, people discovered a great majority of messages they did not trust, and a great majority of gross biases in the marketing infrastructure that has been developed on the internet.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: FAke news concerns are at all time hights reaching 76% globally and false information is being used actively as a weapon in all industries.

Privacy, Security, Anonymity, and Community have become the primary values of focus people have and anything that infringes on these values is now being met with emotionally defensive response – not conducive to democracy.

3. Community provides a probable, but fragile solution

Community’s primary focus for businesses and for the internet has been to help people gather around the content, interests, topics, and values they hold dear and in common. The idea has been to collect around topics or beliefs and find others to collaborate with, and then strengthen their level of engagement to create peer-to-peer conversation.

In the Web 2.0 that we received, Community has gradually bisected and divided itself to provide media-bubbles that determine what information and media is introduced to our participants, and how they will receive that information. When communities have clashed, it has generally ended less then spectacularly as people gained a practice of Trolling, rage quitting, blocking, and then seeking gratification in being right by reinforcing a belief within the community.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: Cycle of distrust threatins societal stability using division and disinformation to widen the gaps between different demographics

But, Community is also the solution. We cannot withdraw from internet conversations. We must learn to change the damaging habits and societal responses we’ve produced to be healthier.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: Restoring trust for the edelman trust barometer will require that businesses and NGOs cut in to the gap for media and government, leading to a stronger focus on leadership, businesses involving themselves politically, and that we do not withdraw from issues present in our worlds.

Do not withdraw. Engage.

4. Its on community to fix the cycle of distrust

It is time now for us as community brands, leaders, stakeholders, and management professionals to actively fight against this by understanding how information-diets impact our lives, and the lives of our participants.

If we get this wrong it could very well mean making the problem worse and this highly free and libertarian internet we all know and fell in love with, will break down.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: The circles of trust are becoming more local which is leraving communities at the helm of ensuring that our trust in the world become more and more compatable with our wider societal beliefs.

5. Brands must lead in DEI, Social Justice & Politics

We’ve made our beds. Now we have to sit in them. We MUST now have strong and robust systems for tackling tough problems within our communities, and as organizations that comprise a brand. It is no longer okay to sit by the sidelines and say, “talking about race in the workplace is unprofessional.” We can no longer withdraw from the conversations that might affect our public image. We must now tackle them head-on, figure out where we stand on topics beyond a financial likelihood, and display our allegiances.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: CEOs are expected to inform policy, not politics for the vast majority of nations and governments.

It is our fault that NGOs, government, and media have failed to maintain the institutional trust required to get these critical things done. The onus is now on us to move the needle on racism, global warming, diversity in the workplace, class-equity, and social justice.

Slide from the Edelman Trust Barometer: the wider public wants more engagement from businesses in resolving pivotal societal issues such as climate change, economic inequality, and systemic injustice.

As a community-brand I believe the #1 question you must ask in the modern world, is “Is my social presence in the communities I’m a part of, helping, or hurting, the well-being of the community I’m marketing to?”

Samantha “Venia” Logan

See the full Edelman report for the year 2022!

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Venia Logan

I’ve spent the past 9 years learning the diverse skills necessary to create strong stable online communities that put your brand’s services at their center. ​​I started my own YouTube channel in 2010, and RESCQU.NET in 2013. I worked for Constant Contact, and returned to college for a specialization in online community management. Then I attained all 12 certifications from DigitalMarketer and helped dozens of communities. Spend fewer resources advertising to cold contacts or buying paid media and get back to focusing on what you love by growing a community that is financially and socially rewarding for you.