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Edelman study shows trust in business has declined

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Chicago—B-to-b companies need to be transparent with their business practices and relationships in order to be credible, Mark Shadle, president of PR agency Edelman’s Central Region, said at a presentation Wednesday hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the Business Marketing Association.

Shadle discussed the results of Edelman’s 10th annual Trust Barometer study. The company surveyed 4,000 individuals in 20 countries for the study, asking them about their trust in the following institutions: business, government, the media and nongovernmental organizations. The phone survey was conducted between Nov. 5 and Dec. 14.

The results indicated that in the U.S., trust in all four institutions has decreased since last year, with trust in business declining from 59% to 36%.

“Trust matters. People make their decisions based on it,” Shadle said, pointing out that of the 77% of people who refused to buy a company’s products or services, 72% of them criticized the company to a friend or colleague.

When asked about the relevance of trust and credibility for b-to-b companies, Shadle said it’s more difficult for b-to-b companies to achieve a high level of trust because they’re dealing with multiple people rather than a single decision-maker.

“B-to-b companies have to become more comfortable in sharing their business practices with the rest of the world,” Shadle said. He said the study’s findings indicate that honest, frequent communication with customers is one of the most important factors in creating a company’s reputation. “They have to put their relationships and information online for broader consumption,” he said.

In addition to greater transparency, Shadle emphasized the credibility of multichannel communications for b-to-b companies. He said online is becoming an important channel for building trust and credibility, and stressed the importance of participating in business-focused social networks and increasing face-to-face communication.

“People want more personal interaction,” he said. Shadle’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion of marketing and business leaders. The panelists were: Rita Athas, executive director of World Business Chicago; Ellis Booker, editor of BtoB; and Clarke Caywood, sector head of PR and Corporate Communications at Northwestern University’s Medill Graduate School of Journalism.

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