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Mapping The Future

What today’s leaders should invest in

04:02 AM October 07, 2019

Trust is society’s most important currency. We are all here, exercising our respective roles in society, because of the trust that has been accorded to us by our stakeholders. Trust allows us to grow humanity’s most important asset: relationships. Without trust and relationships, the mechanisms that have long enabled each of us to survive and advance would be put at risk. Yet trust is an ever-evolving organism, and we have to continuously nurture it to let it flourish.

This is particularly true in 2019, where people are more connected and more involved than ever. But in the midst of hyper connectedness, we have seen the lasting effects of fake news and the decline of fact-based society. Needless to say, these are taking a tremendous toll on institutions’ trust coffers.

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This was the disturbing finding of the 2019 Philippine Trust Index (PTI), the EON Group’s proprietary biennial research that tracks levels and drivers of trust among institutions in the Philippines—the Church, the government, media, businesses, NGOs, and the academe. This is the first time this has happened since we started doing the PTI in 2011.

Changing landscape

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What does this changing trust landscape tell us then? Evidently, institutions need to do a better job at building trust with their stakeholders. Trust, after all, is the single most important currency that leaders need to nurture, even it remains sadly, strangely undervalued.

Social media’s role in the erosion of trust is easy to see. Despite the increase in the amount of time Filipinos spend on social media, they trust this platform less as a source of information compared to 2017. Social media has become a magnifying glass that allows people to examine institutions and judge if these are worthy of their trust. For better and for worse, social media has engendered a heightened sense of vigilance among people, and have served as a platform for the free exchange of information and opinion among people.

With thousands of Filipinos glued to their smartphones, issues that go viral or stand out on social media—including fake news and biased claims—grab people’s attention faster and shape their perceptions.

This free flow of communication and heightened vigilance bring institutions under greater scrutiny, with the 2019 PTI also revealing a drop in performance ratings in the trust drivers across all institutions since 2017. This means that Filipinos want these institutions to put greater effort into building and sustaining their trust. The business sector, in particular, is seeing a shift in trust drivers. In previous years, the top trust drivers for businesses have always been a mix of their ability to provide quality products and services and commitment to treating their employees and customers well. This year, we saw these drivers shift to focus purely on human welfare. Interestingly, a business’ ability to ‘provide quality products and services’ has been replaced by ‘helping underprivileged communities’ as a top trust driver.

While overall trust across institutions has declined, some sectors and sub-institutions still enjoy high trust levels. Notably, extreme trust in the Church, one of the most trusted institutions, remains consistent with its 2017 rating, emphasizing the unshaken faith of the Filipino.

How, then, are institutions supposed to manage unmet expectations at a time when trust levels are dwindling?

Clearly, we have to accept that social media is a critical and powerful platform to control narratives. From where we sit, we cannot absolutely control or police the proliferation of disinformation yet we are duty-bound to fight it. This begins with creating content based on the truth, and making sure it resonates with our publics. It also means being mindful and selective of our sources of information, as we should not add to the flow of disinformation.

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Needless to say, this means investing time, effort, and resources, in ensuring that we get the right messages out.

This also means institutions should step up their game—knowing that Filipinos have not given up on their country. This means institutions have to look deeply at themselves and examine how they can be relevant and contribute positively to the lives of people.

For businesses, in particular, it is imperative to invest not only in aspects that will enhance profitability, but sustainability as well, with a special focus on the welfare of people. People have to view the business organization as an entity with a social purpose and a commitment to be of service to people.

Growing the trust currency

Take charge of your narrative

Despite the decline of trust in social media as a source of information, they continue to play a critical role in shaping the public’s perceptions toward institutions, ultimately affecting how they trust.

Take advantage of this two-way exchange of information to create targeted, relevant conversations with audiences. Furthermore, in the age of fake news and disinformation, it is important to fight fire with fire: content that resonates with the public and is based on truth.

Walk the talk

The decline in performance ratings across all top trust drivers suggests institutional dissatisfaction. There is a pressing need for institutions to put more effort into protecting the welfare of the Filipino, and as leaders, we need to lead the charge in going beyond profits or organizational success and creating change for good.

Fight against polarization

The results of this year’s PTI show trust gains or consistencies for some sectors, and extreme losses in others. Organizations within key institutions see polarizing trust levels, which could lead to even greater institutional dissatisfaction and weakened overall trust. Everyone, especially those already enjoying high levels of trust, should take responsibility in rebuilding trust within and across all institutions.

Download a copy of the 2019 PTI Executive Summary at eon.com.ph/pti

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