Communicate spoke with Omar Qirem, CEO of Edelman Middle East, to learn more about the findings from this year's edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer Report.
Edelman Intelligence, a global insight, and analytics consultancy released the 21st edition of the UAE Trust Barometer report. This year's report focused on the theme - Declaring Information Bankruptcy. Communicate spoke with Omar Qirem, CEO of Edelman Middle East, to learn more about the findings.
What are the highlights of this year’s edition of the Edelman UAE Trust Barometer Report?
This year’s report has once again shown the UAE as one of the most trusted countries in the world with the government remaining the most trusted institution, followed by business, NGO's and media. The findings reveal strong trust in leadership because of the [qualities] that were displayed over the last year such as proactivity, transparency and empathy.
The theme of this year's report [which is Declaring Information Bankruptcy] revolves around people’s search for [trusted,] reliable sources of information. They don't know where to look for it and are [expecting] key institutions such as government, media, NGO's and business to have these reliable sources of information. Unfortunately, as we have seen globally, [that's not the case.]
[Another highlight] is that post - 2020, the pandemic and the economic crisis, people are looking for businesses to be transparent and talk about issues which are societal such as the issue of job security and the impact of automation.
One of the key findings [in this year’s report is around] the topic of trust and information sources. According to the report, in the UAE, information sources have experienced a significant decline. Search engines fell 9 points down, traditional media 6 points down, owned media is -8 and social media is -9.
In terms of where that lands, search engines are above the line, which means they're trusted. Our metrics define trusted as anything above 60-100. Traditional media however, has fallen below the line from 62-56.
[While this looks bad,] if we compare these findings with the global findings, the UAE is in a comparatively better position.
The findings about news organizations in the UAE are very alarming. Could you discuss more on that?
One of the key findings revealed news organizations in the UAE to be biased. [During our survey,] we asked respondents questions such as – “Are journalists and reporters purposely trying to mislead readers?” and 59% of respondents agreed with the statement. The findings also stated that 52% of respondents felt news organizations are more concerned with supporting an ideology and 43% believe media is not being objective at all.
If we look at the global findings regarding these same questions, the numbers are much higher.
So, while there is an Infodemic, the UAE is in a better position [than the rest.] What we’re seeing is that people are now expecting business, government, NGO's and media to all collaborate together to provide reliable sources of information.
What steps can we take to help restore faith in the country's media?
Right now, we're seeing UAE publishers partnering with organizations to produce trustworthy content. Take for example how social media platforms took the lead in educating people on vaccine safety and information. These platforms partnered with the Government to produce this content, so it can be classified as certified, reliable information. It's actions like these that can help restore trust.
How can we improve the information hygiene in the country?
According to the report, only one in four in the UAE have good information hygiene, which means 26%. The vast majority of people simply don't know how to manage their information diet. It's almost like a wall of noise coming at people and they've got to almost pick and choose what they believe.
What we've done in the report is measure how well people in the UAE practice good information hygiene, for example do they refer to multiple sources, do they avoid information echo-chambers, which is when someone encounters information and/or opinions that reinforce their own, etc.
What we can do to improve the hygiene level, is for media and communicators to band together, in order to communicate reliable information and produce certified content. I believe it can go a long way in being able to restore trust and improve the information hygiene levels in the country.
According to the report, 87% believe business leaders should voice concerns on societal issues. How would you recommend CEOs to approach the matter?
CEOs can begin by being authentic and addressing the concerns of the public. What we're seeing is that people want CEOs to be transparent and talk about issues whether it's job security or the impact of automation. CEOs need to be proactive, empathetic, and that involves making sure they're talking to their constituents in the right way. There's a major difference in how internal communications is done and how mass communications is conducted.
People want CEOs to discuss realities about the pandemic, AI, societal and local community issues. But what they need to realize is that talking isn't enough. There needs to be action as well.
One organization in Dubai discussed about protecting the jobs of their employees. So what they did is switch a large number of employees from one role into another role, thereby protecting their employment and also meeting a business need. It's about actions and Edelman refers to this as Action Communications.
Leaders need to lead by example every single day and by taking actions, it will help rekindle the trust in institutions. It's also important for CEOs to take a tailored approach, that's personalized for each audience group. A generic, standard response won't help in rebuilding the trust.