Are you in the midst of a search for that celebrity spokesperson for a big ad campaign? Perhaps you're facing a crisis at your company and getting ready to trot out the CEO to address the issue? Before you do either of those, you may want to read the 2006 Edelman Trust Barometer.
According to Edelman's seventh annual survey, “a person like me” passed doctors and academics for the first time as the most credible source of information about a company. The rise has been amazing in the U.S., where trust in “a person like me” increased from 20% in 2003 to 68% today. By 42% to 28%, rank-and-file employees are considered more credible spokespersons than corporate CEOs. (Be sure to listen to the accompanying podcast from Richard Edelman on the Trust Barometer).
The average Joe is also trusted more than marketing. A study by Forrester and Intelliseek found that consumers are 50 percent more likely to be influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers than by radio/TV ads.
So, where do marketers turn in a low-trust marketing world? An article on AdAge.com today says that marketers need to ask “How do we get people talking about our product, learn from what they say and tap their conversation to inform other communications efforts?” As a first step they recommend companies following Amazon and add consumer reviews, ratings and recommendations to their, or their retailers’, Web sites. If your web site has a CEO biography, but no place for customers to comment on/rave about/interact with your company, you've missed the mark.
A recent white paper from Edelman and Technorati credits this lack of trust in institutions as a factor driving the blogging phenomenon. Page 9 of that white paper gives an "Emerging Model" for communicating with your constituents. Among the better suggestions are being more concerned with conversation than control, engaging in external relationships at multiple levels, empowering employees and consumers to co-create and embracing the wisdom of the crowds. All of those tactics are made easier through blogging. If yo'ure not yet in the blogosphere, it may be time to jump in.
But the first thing marketers (and companies and CEO's) need to do is acknowledge the truths in this survey. Why put out people and messages that aren't trusted in mediums that are suspected when it's so much easier to do the opposite? That way, maybe consumers will trust you and people like themselves.