Building trust amidst uncertainty

Uncertainty is the new normal. Greater public demands, extreme vigilantism with our smart phones, and the rise of fake news have created a fearful, anxious society that is constantly uncertain of others’ motives, of political and market outcomes, of the truth.

In a world where a crisis of trust prevails, Filipinos are, ever surprisingly, showing increasing trust for institutions, including the government, business, and the Church. These institutions have seen an unprecedented spike in trust levels, according to the Philippine Trust Index (PTI) 2017, EON Group’s proprietary research, which tracks trust levels of Filipinos for key institutions.

This is a direct contradiction of the findings of EON’s longtime affiliate, global PR agency Edelman, that people around the world have become more skeptical of society’s key institutions amidst the disruptions that have played out in the global stage. In the Philippines, the opposite is happening, showing that trust-building is truly a unique, dynamic process that plays out differently in various contexts, with equally unique drivers.


Let’s examine how the results of the PTI 2017 bear this out.

For the fourth straight year, the Church remained as the most trusted institution, with a trust level of 93%, a position it has kept since the PTI started in 2012, and just a point lower than its highest recorded rating. In fact, Filipinos’ trust in almost all key institutions continued to rise, with business (75), the government (80), academe (93), and NGOs (59) logging their highest trust levels.

It is worth pointing out that two institutions saw huge jumps in their trust levels.

One is the government, with an unprecedented increment of 30 percentage points (PP), overtaking the trust ratings of media and NGOs. Among government sub-institutions, the Office of the President commanded the highest trust level of 82 PP, with 39 PP saying they have extreme trust for the office. This is hardly surprising, given that President Duterte has consistently logged very high satisfaction ratings in all surveys. Filipinos also have the highest trust levels for those agencies that they interact with frequently — PhilHealth, SSS, and the Department of Education.

The second is the business sector, with an extraordinary 20-PP jump. Business sectors that had the highest trust levels are health services, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, energy and power, and telecommunications.


Since it is not too often that these big jumps happen, it’s worth examining the drivers that allowed the government and business to build and cultivate trust.

Respondents of the PTI were asked what made them trust an institution. They said that they trust the government when it takes steps to improve their lives in concrete ways, such as by putting corrupt officials in jail, preparing communities for disasters, ensuring national peace and security, providing better job opportunities, and helping the poor access basic needs. They are less concerned about issues such as meeting tax collections, industry development, or preservation of Filipino culture.

For the government, the message is thus clear: it has to take measures that impact people’s lives directly. That means people have to feel safe in their homes and in the streets. They should have their basic needs addressed, gain access to job opportunities, and see actions that have a real meaning in their daily existence.

For businesses, the PTI has shown time and again that Filipinos trust those companies that treat their people well. Three of the five most important drivers of trust in this institution are tied to employee welfare, like providing good salaries and benefits as well as cultivating a fair and non-discriminatory workplace, while the other two are hinged on good customer service.

What this suggests is that companies need to cultivate their greatest asset — their people — while pursuing profitability and ensuring customer excellence at the same time.


From a larger perspective, the PTI 2017 findings underscore three important lessons about trust building.

First, trust is built through repeated and regular interactions.

People can only truly trust what they know and understand — whether it’s a government that is able to throw a corrupt politician to jail or a business organization that treats its employees fairly. People will also trust those organizations that they interact with the most, underlining the need for institutions to engage meaningfully with their stakeholders. This starts with knowing what your stakeholders want and need, their priorities and thresholds, their dreams and aspirations, and then to connect with them in ways that add value to their lives.

Second, good communication is important.

People need stories and information that they can understand and relate to. They won’t embrace anything, no matter how lofty, if they cannot understand it. This is why it’s important to talk about people — what matters to them; how their lives have changed. Tell good stories because these are what people truly remember and often turn into affinity for your brand.

Third, institutions need to take charge of online conversations surrounding their brand.

Without a doubt, traditional media is important in building credibility and reaching a wider audience, but this year’s PTI discovered that Filipinos online actually trust social media more than media as an institution. This clearly means that it is critical for organizations to engage stakeholders using digital communications and pay attention to building their digital reputations.

Trust, though, is not an end-all and a be-all.

It is not enough to cultivate trust for a single brand, organization, institution or prominent personality. We also need greater trust in each other — trust that is built through inclusive, respectful, and meaningful interactions. As leaders in our own organizations, communities or institutions, we all have a responsibility to use our trust and influence in upholding truth for good. After all, these trust ratings are not proof that we do well and do good, but only that we are perceived to do so. And sadly, perceptions are not always aligned with reality.

Let’s take these trust ratings not as a pat on our back for a job well done or a sense of security that might lull us into complacency, but as a burden of responsibility.

Junie S. del Mundo is the Chair of the M.A.P. CEO Conference Committee and the CEO of the EON Group, a fully integrated communications agency. EON Group also spearheads thought leadership initiatives including the PTI, a multi-awarded proprietary research that looks into Filipinos’ trust in society’s institutions.



Share this page Share on FacebookShare on Linkedin


Join our network