Opinion leaders look to tech sector to get us out of this mess

10 Feb 2009

Opinion leaders in Ireland believe that Ireland’s technology and biotech sectors are key to helping the nation escape the worst of the “economic mess” caused by bankers’ speculation, with the majority putting their trust in the technology industry.

Not surprisingly, some 83pc of Irish opinion leaders trust business less than they did a year ago – the largest amount globally out of the 20 countries surveyed as part of Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer.

The public’s faith in the knowledge sector was further underlined by the fact that the biotech and life sciences sector was ranked second most trusted sector.

The damage done to public confidence by the sudden recession could be seen in the massive 91pc of survey respondents who said they had refused to purchase the products or services of companies they distrusted over the past 12 months.

The rising influence of digital media as a source of information was also observed with internet search engines listed as the eighth most trusted source to find information about companies.

A quarter of Irish opinion leaders listed websites such as Google as a credible source of company information.

However, this remains behind traditional and expert information sources, such as industry analyst reports or media coverage.

Interestingly, free content sources such as Wikipedia (21pc) are deemed as credible as a company’s own website (18pc) as a source of company information.

“The research findings illustrate the Irish public’s faith in the knowledge economy to play a leading role in the economic recovery,” explained Mark Cahalane, managing director, Edelman Dublin.

“The fact that the technology and biotech sectors rank as the most trusted industries in Ireland highlights the respect for the high-value jobs companies in these sectors have created.

“It is likely we will see a rise in applicants for college courses related to these sectors due to the job opportunities in science, engineering and ICT.”

Two thirds of opinion leaders expect business to partner with Government and advocacy groups to address challenges such as the credit crisis, global warming and rising energy costs.

“We need innovative solutions and this offers technology and biotech companies a chance to show the integral role that science and engineering will play in solving these problems,” Cahalane added.

The research shows that trust in traditional media sources and spokespeople has fallen across the board.

Almost two thirds of respondents (61pc) said they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they believe it.

Specialists such as academics or industry analysts are the most trusted purveyors of information of a company, with 73pc of survey participants singling them out as credible spokespeople.

The most trusted corporate information source is now conversations with employees. This is further impacted by the falling credibility of company CEOs, with only 21pc of Irish opinion leaders treating information from CEOs as credible when forming opinions about a company.

“The events of the past 18 months have seen us move from a position of boom to bust in terms of trust,” said Cahalane.

“In order to re-earn the mantle of authority, businesses must change their priorities and communications strategies in order to show they will lead the economic recovery and enter an era of mutual social responsibility.

“This will involve forging partnerships with key stakeholders, developing sustainable business practices and communicating regularly with core audiences to lead the public conversation on issues affecting their company,” Cahalane added.

By John Kennedy