Edelman: Level of trust for local media can be improved

  • Business
  • Saturday, 13 Oct 2012

Harrington: ‘Being more transparent about its agenda is needed to create more trust for the Malaysian media sector.’

A HIGHER level of public engagement, as well as more frequent communication with the public, is needed to increase the level of trust for the Malaysian media segment.

Citing the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer for Malaysia, Edelman global chief operating officer Matthew Harrington points out that the level of trust for the local media sector could be improved further.

“Having better engagement with readers, having constant dialogue and being more transparent about its agenda is needed to create more trust for the Malaysian media sector,” he tells StarBizWeek.

“The principal issue where trust is lacking is when there’s a presumption that there’s an untold story, and that it isn’t being shared fully, thus causing readers to be more cynical.”

The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer examines trust in four key institutions, namely government, business, media, and non-government organisations (NGOs), as well as communications channels and sources.

Edelman is the world’s largest independent public relations firm, with wholly-owned offices in 60 cities and 4,000 employees worldwide.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer for Malaysia, Malaysians placed a high level of trust in NGOs and business, with 58% of the general population trusting both institutions to do “what is right.”

This compares with the public trust in Government (52%) and media (46%), providing business and NGOs a license to lead the agenda to build increased trust and deeper relationships with the Malaysian public.

“When you look at some of the other Asia-Pacific markets, media did better while the Government could also bolster its trust,” says Harrington.

Harrington notes that there is a higher trust among more countries in Asia in the Government.

“That’s due to economic growth that’s permeating in the region. There’s optimism that governments will be driving economic growth and this is especially apparent in China,” he says, adding that trust in the Government mirrored the growth of the economy.

According to the survey, among informed public in Malaysia, the top five most trusted industry sectors are technology (85%); telecommunications (81%); banks (78%); financial services (77%); automotive and food and beverage (75% each).

The least trusted industry sectors were brewing and spirits (33%).

Globally, the survey noted that media was one institution to see an increase, its global trust level rising above 50%. It experienced significant regional upticks in India (20 points), the US (18 points), the UK (15 points) and Italy (12 points).

With the inclusion of Malaysia last year, a total of 25 countries are currently covered under Edelman’s Trust Barometer. Harrington says Edelman currently has no immediate plans to add new countries.

Generally, however, Harrington says he is quite optimistic about the outlook for Malaysia.

“When you look at the ETP (Economic Transformation Programme), the Government has put forward a challenge about how Malaysia can move to a high-income economy by 2020. What it then begins to do is put forward a framework on how that will happens and in doing so, creates a conversation with its citizens.

“It’ll be interesting to see where Malaysia lands next year (on the Trust Barometer). Malaysia is in growth mode in a challenging economic environment, hence maintaining the trust and optimism for the country will be more challenging when it’s part of a global enterprise.”

Harrington says that as long as businesses and relevant institutions are increasingly working to be more transparent and authentic about what their role is in society, the more opportunity there is to build and preserve trust.

Now in its 12th year, the Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm’s annual global trust and credibility survey which provides important insights for companies on building trust and corporate reputations.

“We started the Trust Barometer 12 years ago because we wanted to understand the degree to which people would believe that institutions would do the right thing. Trust is something you earn to license to operate as well and lead.

“You won’t have that if you don’t have trust. So, being able to examine the degree to which people trust the government, business, media or NGOs has Edelman to have a bit of a roadmap in counselling our clients,” Harrington says.

He notes that a “complete swing” in the trust level of certain institutions is entirely possible.

“We have seen big swings in certain markets. In the United States, for instance, when they entered the Iraq war, trust in the US government declined, so did their US businesses. It was one of the rare years that we saw trust in all US institutions decline on a global basis,” says Harrington.

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