Having joined Edelman in early January, the Trust Barometer was fast approaching, and its standalone importance was immediately clear.
The 2019 Trust Barometer is Edelman’s 19th annual trust and credibility survey, which measures trust across a number of institutions, sectors and geographies. This year’s data revealed a Disunited Kingdom, and in times of era-defining political upheaval, senior political and business figures are adopting the brace position.
Starting a new job as part of the Edelman Open entry-level scheme in the presence of such a turbulent political backdrop has afforded me a new perspective. One that, for many in my position, has not featured in editorial space, and understandably so. Simply put, Brits are absorbing more content that conveys warning and fear, so why should they care about those who are excited about their career? The job market for young people is being squeezed into an increasingly narrow space, from which I consider myself extremely lucky to have emerged, and yet now, more than ever, my professional aspirations exist alongside the caveat of increasing social division and my perception of corporate responsibility.
The Trust Barometer revealed that 79% of those polled believed CEOs should assume the responsibility to affect change instead of waiting for government officials to do so. What, however, constitutes change? Gauging the wills and desires of the most fractured population in memory, in which 3 out of 5 people do not feel represented in British politics, suggests that brands cannot afford to identify a mass collective to whom they can appeal. Instead, their message must be tailored to a specific audience, an audience who value progressive thought and conscious obligation to improve the society we live in. The way in which they do it however, needs work. It is now an expectation that brands adopt a social stance, backed up by profound speeches from their CEOs, but I know the benefits that exist for their company as a result. Real meaning for consumers like me, lies in the actions they take to build on that message. Show a commitment that exists outside audio-visual impact. Half a million more children are living in poverty in Britain than 5 years ago, and it is statistics like these that companies can act on, rather than solely highlight.
As is common practice in most agencies, including Edelman, the emphasis on Purpose is now a cornerstone of their communications strategy. As someone contemplating what my professional and personal future holds, it is reassuring to know that the well-known clients we represent acknowledge the increasingly important role they have in promoting hope over trepidation. Beyond the political surge towards the right-wing and the populist bounce, economic and cultural relevance is tied to progressive thinking. White-middle aged men are no longer seeing the pay-rises that were once a guarantee, and we are seeing more campaigns and communications directed towards social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, and an alertness to eco-friendly solutions.
For those who are starting out in their communications careers, like myself, this is hugely significant, because where conflict once existed, business goals are now aligned to causes that our generation truly ignited. For example, in actively backing Colin Kaepernick, Nike did more than show an awareness of his campaign for equality. They added a powerful commercial voice to the conversation and drew their battle lines in Trump’s America. Whilst our voices are mostly drowned out by political noise, brands are responding. Being a part of that interaction, and facilitating it here at Edelman, is an exciting position to be in.