Most opinion polls seem to show that public trust in Government, in big business and in the media is continuing to decline. Let’s face it, that’s hardly surprising. The recent Trust Index published by Edelman bears this out, showing that over 70 per cent of people in the UK support tighter regulation of both the financial services sector and the energy market.
The fallout from the Westminster expenses scandal means that the public’s faith in politicians could hardly be lower. To many, the old joke about Guy Fawkes being the last man to enter Parliament with the intention of doing public good seems uncomfortable close to the truth. Only a few months ago public opinion forced the UK Government to back down on plans for military intervention in Syria, almost certainly as a result of the legacy of mistrust which continues after the Blair Government’s invasion of Iraq.
Business is doing little better, with countless high profile cases of tax avoidance and bribery while City bankers continue to pay themselves million pound bonuses. The ongoing phone hacking scandal makes it difficult for the media to take the moral high ground in all of this.
If organisations, both private and public sector, want the public to trust them, they must realise that that trust has to be earned. The best way to earn that trust is to be open and honest with the public.
For example, one of the criticisms often made of local authorities is that decisions are made behind closed doors. Many Councils have been able to go some way to countering this by webcasting their meetings or by holding meetings away from the Council Chamber in church halls and other community venues.
If you explain clearly to people why you are making your decisions they are more likely to trust you, even if they don’t necessarily agree with you. But if you keep your reasons hidden, you can’t be surprised if your reputation suffers.