Trust in Malaysia

This is the first time we have ever conducted the Trust Study in Malaysia and given an interesting political back drop in recent months we were very interested to see the results.

Over-all Malaysia does fit an Asia-Pacific norm and is generally more trusting. Of the 25 countries we survey it ranks 10th most trusting (57% of opinion formers trust its institutions to do what is right), but it is behind close neighbours Singapore (67%) and Indonesia (63%) and other Asia Pacific markets like China (76%), India (65% ) and Hong Kong (61%).

Specifically, NGOs and business are the most trusted institutions both with opinion leaders and with the public. Both are trusted to ‘do what is right’ by 58% of  the public compared to 46% for media and 52% for government. Globally of the four institutions, government saw the biggest falls this year and is now trusted by only 38% of consumers worldwide so the Malaysia score for government whilst being on the lower side for Asia, still remains higher than the global average.  The study was in the field in October / November so recent political events will not have affected this number and of course we have no trend data for Malaysia, but for those of us who have been working with this instrument for a few years now, the number seems to make sense.

The gap between business and NGOs versus government and media is a significant one in Malaysia. Government ‘control’ of media in countries like Singapore and China does not stop media in those places being trusted (in fact the opposite seems to be true) so the trust score for media of only 47% of opinion formers is an interesting one. I look forward to discussing the reasons for this with our panelists at our launch event and will update via the comments section.

Business definitely has an opportunity to lead in Malaysia and especially technology (85% trusted by opinion formers), telecommunication (81%), banking (78%) and financial services (77%).  Technology has been the most trusted sector globally ever since we have been doing this study, so no surprise there in Malaysia, but banking and financial services are globally the least trusted sectors and yet in Malaysia are very well regarded. The banking crisis of 2008 was a western phenomena and the role of banks and bankers bonuses in society is not an Asian phenomena (with the possible exception of Korea).

Like most markets, Malaysians need to hear things repeatedly from multiple sources before they believe them these days; 64% need to hear things three to five times, meaning that for companies and brands, continual engagement and communications is required if they want to build trust.

Corporate web sites and sources of information are more highly trusted in Malaysia (29%) than the global (16%) or Asia Pacific (18%) average and as much as traditional media sources (29%) which does give business and communicators who provide regular and quality content via there own channels a big opportunity to build trust and relationships.

When it comes to choice of spokespeople in Malaysia, companies need to be aware that the CEO is only the fifth most credible source of information (51%) on his or her own firm!  More believable to Malaysian opinion formers are company technical experts (72%), academics (70%) a ‘person like yourself’ (62%) and  a financial or industry analyst (61%).  We still believe the CEO has a big role in communications and especially on strategic and financial issues and in a crisis, but every firm in Malaysia that wants to build trust needs to make sure it has a variety of spokespeople and endorsers.

Malaysian leaders in both government and business do enjoy one huge advantage in communication terms however – the public in Malaysia believes they tell the truth… or conversely only 24% believe that government leaders and only 9% believe business leaders lie to them.  Only leaders in UAE and Singapore are more believed by their people.

That being said… business and government in Malaysia should not rest on its laurels.  When we asked specific questions on how business and government were delivering on expectations there appeared some big gaps.  On the most important three actions a government can take to build trust in Malaysia; listens to needs and feedback; transparent and open practices and effectively manages financial affairs the gaps between delivery and expectation were 45%, 45% and 46% respectively.  These scores are broadly in line with global norms… but given what is happening in Europe with the Euro crisis and in the US where politics openly conspires to thwart rational budgeting and economic planning and 99% movement, Malaysia’s scores do seem a little low.

But… not low enough to stop 54% of opinion formers believing that government  should do more to regulate business. Malaysia is indeed a land of contradictions when it comes to trust.

And finally, the ‘magnificent Malaysian seven’ – the attributes the Malaysian public as a whole believe is important in building trust in a company are 1) high quality products and services, 2) listens to customers, 3) has transparent and open business practices, 4) has ethical business practices,  5) takes actions to address issues and crises, 6) places customers ahead of profits and 7) treats employees well.

Here’s the deck.


And here’s Raymond Siva, our GM for Malaysia talking about the highlights:

About the Study

The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer includes responses from over 30,000 people across 25 countries. The survey, which is in its 12th year, now also includes responses from 1000 general publics (as distinguished from informed publics) in each surveyed market. Steve Lombardo, the CEO of StrategyOne – Edelman’s Independent Research Firm – explains in this video how the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer was designed, and the opportunities to analyze trust around the world, and across a variety of industries, that the survey data provides.

Categories Technology

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