Trust in Asia Pacific

Osaka, windows, taken from the office of our client Astra Zeneca

Osaka, windows, taken from the office of our client Astra Zeneca.

Today we released the findings of the twelfth annual Edelman Trust Barometer, the global results of which were covered in the FT. And this year it is bigger and better in that there are more countries included (Hong Kong and Malaysia for the first time) and the sample has been boosted so we are now measuring not just opinion formers but also consumers.  More than ever, the Edelman Trust Barometer is the biggest single survey in the PR industry and delivers more data that PR professionals and communicators can build strategy and plans around. And though we give so much of it away….we also keep a bit behind so if you like what you are seeing in all this and would like a sector or market deep dive, then we have what you need!

And as ever i will start with my health warning that ‘there is no such country as Asia Pacific’….and so whilst there are some very interesting regional and global trends in the data from this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, the real stories and the ‘actionable insight’ to borrow an over-used phrase is in the national data. Here is the regional deck, to go with the global one. Some highlights that caught my eye:

  •  Over-all, trust in China, India and Australia went up, it was stable in Singapore and it went down in Indonesia, Korea and Japan
  • Of the 23 markets we surveyed globally, only seven can now be classified as ‘trusting’ and four of those are Asian
  • Of the four ‘institutions’ (government, media, business and NGOs) we measure, only Government went down in Asia Pacific.  Measured globally, the only institution that gained in Trust was media.  Asia Pacific remains considerably less gloomy than the ‘West’.
  • The decline in trust in government in Asia Pacific was led by significant declines in Japan (-26%), Korea (-17%), China (-13%) and Indonesia (-22%).  The reasons for these range from perceived corruption or cronyism, economic mismanagement, incompetence and lack of transparency and I will discuss each on separate posts on each market as we release that data over the next few weeks.
  • Business trust remains high in Asia Pacific though it did fall in Japan and Korea
  • The most trusted industry sectors in the region are (in order) technology, automotive, telecommunications and banks.   Globally, banks and financial services are the least trusted sectors so the region’s lack of a large scale banking crisis, sovereign debt issue or controversy over bonuses means we remain a comparatively welcoming place for financiers (with the possible exception of Korea)
  • Trust in media rose in India and Singapore and declined (with everything else) in Japan.  Again, compared to global numbers, trust in media in Asia Pacific remains high and (counter-intuitively perhaps) especially high in countries where government plays a strong role in media like Singapore (65%), China (79%) and Indonesia (80%)
  • We need to hear something (good or bad) about a company an average of three to four times before we believe it in Asia Pacific, which is why one-off ‘campaigns’ rarely work and a commitment to continual engagement does
  • Traditional media remains the most trusted channel of information about companies, but online sources (up by 27%) and social media (up by 89%) are catching fast.  There are some big national differences in this we will unpack over the next few weeks
  • NGOs remain the most trusted institution in the region and so our advice remains they are important to partner with and if you end up in a public argument with them, be sure to have a better case because they are more likely to be believed.  Again, there are some interesting national variations in this to come such as China, where trust in NGOs is now at a record 79% (nb; when people answer this question in many Asia Pacific countries, we believe they have in mind local NGOs that address very real local issue rather than the ‘finger pointing’ western global ‘branded’ NGOs)
  • Spokesperson credibility is becoming democratised in Asia Pacific. A ‘person like yourself’ (60%) is now more trusted as a source of information on a company than the CEO (46%) and a regular employee has surged to 41%. This is hugely important for communicators and again we will go into the markets differences on this in the near future.  One example; a CEO in Japan now scores just 22% as a credible source of information on his or her company.
  • Neither governments or business in the region are meeting the public’s expectation in areas like ‘listening’ and having ethical and transparent business practices.
  • Despite some trust issues with government there remains an appetite for regulation to protect consumers and mandate responsible corporate behaviours in the region.  Business still needs to prove it can do as it ‘should’ not just what it ‘could’ to paraphrase Goldman Sachs.
  • And finally the study will show what business needs to do to build trust in each market.  Regionally the list is headed by i) listen to customer’s needs and feedback, ii) Produce high quality products and services, iii) treat employees well, iv) Places customers ahead of profits, v) Have ethical business practices.  Other than point two, all of these have engagement and communication at the heart of them
Edelman offices in all Asia-Pacific markets will be holding detailed presentations and panel sessions over the next few weeks on their country specific findings and so if you would like to attend please contact ‘your local Edelman representative’.


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