Trust Barometer Reveals Chamber Opportunity

Dave Kilby

Reading through a summary of the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer (ETB) confirmed several of my suspicions about the media and government and revealed some interesting data that could equate to key opportunities for chambers of commerce in the year ahead.

The ETB reveals “an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world. Adding to this, is a failing trust ecosystem unable to confront the rampant infodemic leaving us with an environment of information bankruptcy and a mandate to rebuild trust and chart a new path forward.”

Key ETB points

• Without a trusted leadership source to look to, people don’t know where to get reliable information.

• With a growing trust gap and trust declines, people are looking for leadership and solutions as they reject media talking heads, who they do not deem credible, and government leaders who are hyper-partisan.

• While the world is clouded by mistrust and misinformation, there is a glimmer of hope for business. This year’s study shows that business (led by small business, in my opinion), is not only the most trusted institution among those studied, but also is viewed as both ethical and competent.

• People clearly expect business to step in and fill the void. The high expectations for business to address and solve today’s challenges has never been more apparent.

The Opportunity

As the “voice of business”—and especially small business—what does all of this mean for chambers of commerce.

If chambers choose to “step up to the plate,” they really could, as the theme of our 2021 conference stated, be: “Relevant: Now More Than Ever”!

It’s time for the business community—hopefully, led by chambers of commerce to:

• Embrace its expanded mandate and expectations and be a champion for a thriving community, which will probably take us down some unfamiliar, confrontational and, maybe even, lonely paths.

• Lead with facts, act with empathy and provide content that is truthful, unbiased and reliable. Here’s our chance to really be THE TRUSTED RESOURCE.

• We MUST partner to solve issues. Yes—here’s our chance to truly be that convener of leaders and influencers to get things done and make a difference.

With more and more people fed up with political polarization and constantly doubting the media (especially social media), it seems that everyone is looking for a trusted, objective truth-teller who will lead and truly wants to make things better for everyone.

This definitely sounds like a Chamber of Commerce—or at least those that truly embrace and excel at the 3Cs: being a catalyst, convener and champion.

Let’s accept the challenge and get to work!

Dave Kilby is president and CEO of W.A.C.E. and executive vice president of corporate affairs at the California Chamber.