Trust in business will never be the same again

A new emphasis on trustworthiness and the common good will prevail after the COVID-19 crisis passes, writes PR veteran Robert Phillips.

by Robert Phillips

Better understandings of “trust” may yet flow from this crisis.

For too long, politicians and business leaders have used lazy language to blame their own shortcomings on a lack or loss of trust. Their words are often hyperbolic – it’s invariably a “crisis” or a “collapse”. But, as IpsosMORI CEO Ben Page testifies, long-term data simply does not support these claims. 

Some sectors (media and politicians included) remain low in trust but consistently so. In contrast, nurses, doctors and teachers always score highly. There is no universal application when it comes to earning and maintaining “trust”  – by profession or geography – which is why homogenising scores and selling global barometers is futile. Earned trust is an abstract concept and difficult to quantify.

As we work through the COVID-19 crisis, those in positions of power and authority who continue to peddle these trust myths will be found out and held to account - specifically the fairy-tale leaders who make promises they cannot keep and, as University of Bath Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey describes it, live in “the la la land of constantly sunny uplands”. Of the many things we have learned recently, no such uplands exist; fake promises are exposed raw by real news. 

Two major shifts are now likely – and a new dimension of trust is emerging, as the world recovers.

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