Rebuilding trust in America starts with our business leaders

by Jeremy Church, on Feb 16, 2021


We find ourselves in a catch-22.

People across the world have instant access to more information than at any point in human history. But depending on the chosen source, we often have no way to quickly verify if the information is actually true.

Never has that paradox been more evident than in the findings of the 21st annual Edelman Trust Barometer. The survey of more than 33,000 respondents highlights the challenges we face as a society when faith in our institutions continues to deteriorate. (I suspect the results would be even worse if they were taken after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.)

Across the board, those polled voiced their displeasure with government, media and even non-profits, with trust in any of these three categories failing to exceed 57%.

Yet the scores for the business community — especially related to respondents’ own companies — were far more positive. This sector was the only one seen as both competent and ethical. The most trusted sources for those responding to the survey include:

  • Their employer (76%)

  • Their own company’s CEO (63%)

  • Their own company’s internal communications materials (61%)

Beyond trust, the results demonstrated several overwhelming leadership opportunities business leaders should embrace.

  • 68% believe CEOs should step in when government fails to fix societal problems

  • 66% believe CEOs should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose change

  • 65% believe CEOs should hold themselves accountable to the public and not just to a board or shareholders

  • 86% believe CEOs should speak out on major societal issues

If nature abhors a vacuum, then these statistics clearly display the opening (if not obligation) for CEOs to fill the trust void that other institutions have created. To emerge from what is described as “information bankruptcy,” business leaders should heed the following advice:

  1. Embrace their expanded leadership mandate

  2. Lead with facts, act with empathy

  3. Provide trustworthy content

  4. Collaborate with the other three institutions to find purpose, take action and solve problems in the community

Just as Edelman’s Trust Barometer has been keeping a pulse on the business world for two decades, so have we at WordWrite. Our experience working with companies to build and enhance their reputation among clients, customers and key stakeholders is consistent with the findings in this report.

We believe any organization’s most powerful communication asset is its own authentic story. Before you were a brand, you had a story that describes why someone would want to buy from you, invest with you, partner with you or work for you.

These characteristics define what we call your Capital S Story, which we help you uncover, develop and share through our trademarked process, StoryCrafting.

Your Capital S Story starts from a place of truth and authenticity. We help teach the most trusted members of your organization how to best communicate it. Most important, we constantly measure how effectively this story connects you to your high value customers or clients.

As the results of the Edelman survey reveal, business leaders have an obligation to promote and highlight their companies’ value systems as examples of who they are and what they want others to emulate. These positive examples can transcend traditional corporate boundaries and serve the greater purpose of uniting communities and repairing mistrust in the other institutions Americans will need to thrive in the long term.

These challenges can’t be accomplished by positioning truth as a battle between political parties or ideologies.

Rather, the values, ideas and behavior you promote within your organization must be clear, honest and equitable. Simply put, you must always define right vs. wrong.

Proactively building upon the trust you’ve engendered is no longer simply smart business, it’s a responsibility everyone in the country now expects. It’s also the essence of your Capital S Story.

To learn more about harnessing the power of your company’s authentic story, click here to read a sample first chapter of WordWrite Founder and President Paul Furiga’s new book, “Finding Your Capital S Story: Why your Story Drives your Brand.”

Topics:authentic storyreputation managementleadership opportunitiestrustworthy brand
Jeremy Church-1
Jeremy Church
Partner, Vice President

Interested in learning how we can help build your trust among key stakeholders? Email me at


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