Edelman Trust Barometer 2016: Serious trust issues emerging, according to Australian study


The Edelman Trust Barometer (Australia) 2016 was unveiled in Melbourne this morning.

The research runs pretty deep and there’s a lot of data to sift through, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to quickly highlight a few things that caught my eye today. The study, which has been running for 16 years, is pretty impressive; I worked with Edelman Australia for two years between 2010 and 2012 and have seen first-hand the effort that goes into the project, and how seriously it’s taken internally.

As always the research was undertaken across two defined segments:


  • aged 25-64
  • tertiary educated
  • in top 25 per cent of household income per age group (in each country)
  • report significant media consumption and engagement in business news and public policy


  • All population not including informed public.

Here are a few of the slides I managed to shoot at the event (hopefully they’re readable enough – click on them to increase their size if needed) – the first two slides should be of particular concern to company leaders and brand custodians.

Let’s go!

Number one: Only 54 per cent of Australians trust their employer to “do the right thing”.  Put another way, 46 per cent don’t trust their employers.

Openness and transparency plus intentional and sustainable communication from the top echelon of organisations can help improve what is a pretty diabolical situation.


Number two: Younger Australians aged 25-34 years (“mass population”) are far less trusting than their wealthier counterparts (“informed public”).  

This is a massive gap – 21 percentage points when it comes to trust and government, and 22 points with business. Compare the gaps with 35-44-year-olds – five points (government) and just one point (business) and you can see a major trust issue percolating among the general younger population. Put simply, they’re simply not resonating with government or business. This does not bode well for the future; for business, if they’re not listening to you, if they don’t trust you, this will probably have a serious impact on the bottom line down the track.


A quick summary of the slides below:

  • MASS POPULATION LEFT BEHIND – Australia’s informed public are ‘trusters’ (just) when it comes to NGOs, media, government and business generally; however, when it comes to the country’s mass population, we’re a nation of ‘distrusters’. You could put that down to Australians’ well-known ‘healthy cynicism’ but I think it runs much deeper than that.
  • TRUST MATTERS – When people trust your company, they’re more likely to buy your products and services, recommend them to others, and share positive opinions online (which is critical when the #1 trusted media source is online search engines); of course there’s a flip-side to this if people don’t trust your brand!
  • TRUST GOES UP … AND DOWN AGAIN – The Edelman survey shows that the percentage of trust in the four institutions of government, business, media and NGOs rose strongly from 2015 to 2016 across both informed public and total population (“informed public + mass population”). However, given the tenuous nature of trust today, Edelman decided to undertake some quick ‘pulse’ research prior to unveiling the Australian Trust Barometer findings; while not as robust as the research proper, the pulse survey indicates that trust has dipped significantly in the interim between the original research and today’s Barometer launch event. One explanation is that when the research was originally undertaken, Malcolm Turnbull had just taken over the prime ministership from Tony Abbott resulting in a quick shot of public optimism; this optimism has largely evaporated as the Turnbull Government grapples (unsuccessfully, some might say) with the enormous challenges facing this country. Expect more wild ‘trust swings’ in the future!
  • EVERY VOICE MATTERS – This is the percentage who trust information created by each author on social networking sites, content sharing sites and online-only information sources, from 2015 to 2016.  Basically, ‘My friends and family’ have rocketed ahead in the trust stakes, followed by a third-party academic or internal/technical expert; the CEO has improved in this area, from a lowly 28 per cent to 40 per cent, but they still languish below other sources. What does this mean for companies and organisations? How can you influence people to talk positively about your brand to their friends and family? It’s also critical companies get their experts out from the shadows of the cubicle farm and empower them to publish content that’s useful, helpful and relevant to consumers, and to participate in public dialogue via social channels. Ditto, get the CEO out there openly and transparently – this will help build trust in their personal brand; oh, and maybe pull back from using celebrities as ambassadors – they’re the least trusted sources of information for a company!

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If you want to delve a bit deeper into the Edelman Trust Barometer 2016 findings, you’ll find a lot of good stuff here. Please note, however, it’s the global version, not the Australian version of the research (or here is the ‘quickie’ version).

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3 thoughts on “Edelman Trust Barometer 2016: Serious trust issues emerging, according to Australian study”

  1. Two weeks ago I was at another Melbourne Social Media Club Meeting where the representative from Tumblr expressed that “Millenials” (age group 18-34) do not trust celebrity endoresements at all, which accomodates the claim “Every Voice Matters”. Also I might add that CPA CEO Alex Malley is a great example of transparency and openness.

    1. Thanks Volker. Interesting re the Tumblr rep quote, it really does align with what the research is telling us, doesn’t it. Yes, Alex is one of the few CEOs who is strongly connected with the community his organisation serves.

  2. Pingback: Why leaders really, really need to care about social media -

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