trust2016 Edelman Trust Barometer War Room

The Art and The Science

The Edelman Trust Barometer will be released in two weeks at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. With 36,000 respondents in 28 countries, this is the largest study of its kind on trust in business, government, media, NGOs, spokespeople and industry sectors. This is our 16th year; we began our work after the NGOs stormed the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999, lived through the dot-com implosion, the rise of NGOs as most credible institution, the Iraq war, the Great Recession, the Government impasse in Brussels and Washington and the fear of pace of innovation.

This is an enormous undertaking for Edelman and Edelman Berland, our research and analytics company. It begins over the summer with an extensive online questionnaire, some parts of it core (trust in business, government, trust in national brands, trust in industries). This year, we will have a special section on the CEO and Trust. We are into the field by the end of September and get initial data back in late November. Discussions are held with each of the markets about any outlier numbers, seeking explanation.

A number of us, including myself, are charged with the writing of essays that capture the essence of the Trust data. What are the trends? What is the larger meaning for business? What can be done with communications or partnerships with civil society? Sometimes it turns into a call to action, such as business having to earn the License to Lead.

One of the most amusing aspects of the six week sprint to Davos is the preparation of the central global deck. Slides are printed and pasted onto the wall in the war room in the New York office. These slides commute more frequently than a person living in Brooklyn, changing places, having new titles or even changing clothes (that would be type face, colors or call out boxes). There are markers tossed around, debates between the researchers and PR folks and even a little food and drink to keep spirits high.

From the deck come the press materials. We arrange interviews with mainstream and born-digital media. I am media trained and presentation trained, so by the time I enter the ring in Davos, I am ready to go. This same process happens in every region and country.

It is indeed my favorite time of year. I am forced to think, deeply and continuously. I wake up in the middle of the night with a new paragraph for my essay in the Trust brochure. I obsess over the differences between developed and developing markets, or the rise of a “person like yourself” compared to government officials. I have to make presentations outside of my home market in the UK, Germany and Italy. I participate in deep debates on inclusive capitalism with academics and CEOs.

Look for my blog post in two weeks on the key findings. Meanwhile, deepest thanks to my co-workers, especially Ben Boyd, Tonia Ries, James Turner, Kathryn Beiser, Kate Linkous, Kisha Stokes, Sarah Adkins and Cody Armstrong and the entire creative team for their heroic work.

Richard Edelman is president and CEO.

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