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Why trust matters in campaigning..

I’m fascinated by the importance of trust in driving campaigning activity, and increasingly convinced that it’s a key  element for successful advocacy, both in the context of the trust that individuals feel towards the person or medium inviting them to take action and also the target that we’re asking them campaign towards.

Which is why the results of Edelman Trust Barometer (a summary of the UK findings are here) last week are interesting to reflect upon.

Although the Barometer isn’t really focused on NGOs, instead being produce for businesses wanting to understand how to better position themselves, many of the messages that come out of it are really useful for anyone thinking about how best to position their campaign.

Here are a few reflections;

People need to hear a message 3 to 5 times to believe it. This isn’t new news, but once again it’s useful to be reminded. What implications does this have on the way we communicate our campaign messages and the importance of ensuring its reinforced through multiple communication channels. How do we get better at ensuring the ‘trusted messengers’ are the ones delivering them.

Globally, academics and technical experts are considered to be the most credible spokespeople. When people are asked to form an opinion of a company, academics have a 68% trust rating, by comparison CEOs have a 38% trust rating.

Does this mean we should be more proactive at making use of academics in our endorsing our campaigns, perhaps using them to publish research that will support our asks? As an aside, the growth in ‘someone like me’ (peers) and a ‘regular employee’ suggest that we might want to make more use of ‘normal’ supporters in our campaigning communications.

Growing separation in the trust that people place in the media. The survey found that in the UK’despite selling millions of copies, only 14% trust the tabloids to tell the truth. While broadsheets command around 50% trust, TV and radio is almost 60%‘.What does this mean for the channels we use to communicate our campaign messages. Interestingly, globally Social Media is only ‘trusted’ by 14% of people, but that’s jumped by 75% in the last year.

Trust in governments is falling, with the majority of countries now distrusting their governments. Indeed in almost all EU and G20 countries trust in government is well below 50%.

Does this have implications on our campaigning when we invite individuals to take action to ask the government to do x,y or z? If the majority of those we’re asking to take action, don’t implicitly trust the government, what does impact does this have on their belief that the action they’re calling for will ever be achieved?

People trust NGOs. The research found that ‘for the fifth year in a row, NGOs are the most trusted institution in the world, and in 16 of the 25 countries surveyed, more trusted than business’.

Great news and an exciting opportunity, but as the decline in trust in countries which saw scandals involving NGOs happen a figure the sector will have to work hard to stay at the top.

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