Opportunities for brands – Edelman Trust Barometer

In February 2016, we held an event in The Marker to unveil the findings of the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2016. In front of a packed room of clients and representatives from the public and private sectors the findings were unveiled by our managing director Joe Carmody followed by a keynote speech from His Excellency Dominick Chilcott, British Ambassador to Ireland. The findings were then discussed in detail by  an esteemed panel of Mr. Robert Watt, Secretary General at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Ms. Dearbhail McDonald, Associate Editor and Legal Affairs Editor at the Irish Independent along with the Ambassador. Shane Coleman, Newstalk’s Political Editor did a fantastic job MCing the event.

This was my first Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s a unique piece of intellectual property that I have admired from afar over the past few years. One of the key reasons I joined Edelman is because it’s the biggest agency in the world and the Trust Barometer is a strong indicator of the genuine collaboration across the global network. For the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, research firm Edelman Berland surveyed more than 33,000 respondents across 28 countries.

Why is Trust important?

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Opportunities and implications for brands

There’s a good summary of the event and insights on TheJournal.ie here and on our own website here but I’ve outlined what I see as some of the key implications and opportunities for brands in Ireland below to increase trust.

Increasing CEO visibility: When it came to the spokespeople that were most trusted by the public CEO credibility saw the biggest increase.  Granted, the rise was from a pretty low base of 31% the jump to 43% represented the biggest jump on our list. CEOs are earning trust back after a few tough years. Edelman employs a 16 point trust-building leadership attribute audit for trust in Irish CEOs and in Ireland our CEOs were seen as underperforming under every single point. We know that Irish CEOs are performing better than the public believes so it’s all about communication.

“Real CSR”: Making a profit is not something to be ashamed of. All too often, we’re seeing organisations use CSR as a bolt on for cheap PR but it’s the organisations who build worthwhile social responsibility into their DNA that benefit the most.

More scope for controlling the message: Search engine, owned and social all saw rises in trust levels. Delving deeper into this we also saw a specific increase in trust levels for content created by brands from 40% to 60%.

Utilising employees as spokespeople: Employees are essential spokespeople. Companies that have the courage to empower employees as spokespeople can earn trust. Our research found that for a number of topics including crises and performance an employee can be seen as the most credible spokesperson.

Online influencer marketing: I’ve already touched on the jump in trust levels for content created by companies but the above chart shows the myriad of voices and their trust levels. It’s important to use the right people to engage with and amplify your content. Interestingly, content created or shared by celebrities is less trusted than that of elected officials.

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These are just some of my own thoughts from a very extensive piece of research into trust. If you would like more information on the Trust Barometer or to talk about how you can build trust levels in your organisation talk to me at martyn.rosney@edelman.com.

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Public Relations “Unpaid Internships”

An unpaid internship, what is it? What does it serve to achieve? Ostensibly one would assume it is to help people with no experience gain experience. As it is practiced here in Ireland in our constantly evolving and developing PR industry I think what an internship actually is is a chance to exploit cheap labour and exploit the naïveté and hunger of young graduates.

Recently, having finished the taught part of my post graduate course I am now in that limbo between the taught section and the thesis submission deadline of my Masters. I was “lucky” enough to secure an “internship”. I was asked to do it for three months with the possibility of a job at the end of it. The remuneration would not even cover the cost of the LUAS back and forth from the job. I would learn “invaluable skills” and get “hands on” experience. This was not the crux of the internship offer though. I was assured that this three month trial period was not just to see if  I was suited to the organisation but more importantly if the organisation was suited to me. What type of industry are we in that a company will offer someone the opportunity to work pro gratis to see if the organisation is suited to the individual? Can you imagine if McDonalds applied this formula? “Well done! You are now a member of the McDonalds team but first we would like you to work for free for three months just to make sure that the organisation is suited to you?”

How has this situation come to pass? All year we have had people of power from the industry come talk to us and telling us how we would have to cut our teeth by working for free. I always wanted to ask the question, “How long did you work for free yourself?” I never asked the question because I knew the answer. “Never”. Those in the positions of power assume that we, the Celtic Cubs, don’t know what real work is. We have lived the good life through the boom and, “sure a bit of hard work will do them good!” The fact of the matter remains that during the last recession no one was working for free. Those not getting paid were gone.

Those of a different viewpoint and ilk to me will point to a few carefully chosen examples of how they did this here, worked for peanuts there et cetera et cetera. What remains is that at no time have so many been asked to work for so little. Many of those in my Masters class are working for free. The consensus is the same. In an industry so concerned and reliant on image, one buzzword has emerged in recent times, that buzzword? Ethics.

Where does ethics fit in when certain people I know are being asked to work for up to six months with the false hope of a job at the end of it. We’d rather not listen to the condescending self righteous Obama-ism that there is nothing false about hope. Obama can get away with it, but a self important PR exec eschewing this does not work. You would think working for free would lead to a well paid position. In fact it does lead to a well paid position, that is if you think €20,000 a year is well paid for 50 hour weeks. Who do those offering these “internships” think will pay the rent? Sadly, they know who. Mommy and Daddy. Is it ethical to expect the Bank of Mommy and Daddy to support our “internship” after having paid for four five maybe six years of higher education. How ethical is that?

Those in industry often whine and lecture about how PR is not taken seriously, but how can they expect others to tale our industry seriously when we don’t take our own industry seriously. At this stage the practice is forcing candidates to seek employment in other areas and losing candidates of calibre to other industries and emigration. This will have a knock on effect for the future that will not be reliant on quality but a future reliant on exploitation for PR here in Ireland. Out of a combination of principle and necessity I have turned down the internships I was offered and continue to be offered. I am not alone in this case. Many I know are returning to summer jobs, returning to live with their families and even returning to their homelands across Europe. If the old adage states, “pay peanuts, get monkeys” is true what do you get if you don’t even pay?

We are free to work we should not work for free.