“People Like Me” are no longer the most trusted according to @edelman_trust 2011, it’s now credentialed spokespeople

I have been using the mantra, “people most trust people like themselves” for some time now. This came from the 2006 Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s worth noting then, that this is no longer true.

In 2011, in order, it’s:

  1. An academic or expert
  2. Technical expert within the company
  3. A financial or industry analyst
  4. CEO
  5. NGO Representative
  6. Government official
  7. People like yourself
  8. Regular employee

In 2009, “People like yourself” was ranked #3. Time to update our talking points!

Take a look, slide 19 in the deck below. I am interested in this because I think it’s possible that the integration of social media into health care will be about bringing trusted experts in with “people like yourself.” The Pew Internet and American Life Project clearly shows that health professionals are still the #1 source of heath information. My goal is not to diminish the peer-peer interactions, it’s to bring the people that people go to most into them. Circle of life.

What are your thoughts?


Very interesting! The Trust Barometer slides are just an appetizer for me — I'm going to try to find out more about the data that went into them.

Meantime, if I may, here is the best capture of Pew Internet's data on how people turn to different sources for different kinds of health information:


Trust is bound up in people's decisions, but there are undoubtedly other factors. To be continued in further research, I hope!

Susannah & Ted – To provide more insight on the post above concerning the fall of “a person like yourself” on the list of credible spokespeople… The Edelman Trust Barometer measures credibility of a company spokesperson on a five-point scale. We have measured the top 2 box score over time, and over the past two years “a person like yourself” fell from the third most credible company spokesperson to second from last. On the other hand, a CEO rose in the ranks from the bottom two into the top tier with other credentialed experts.

Indeed this finding is not specific to health, we are however exploring trust and credibility further as it relates to the health in the 2011 Edelman Health Barometer, scheduled to be released this fall. In case you are interested, here is a link to last year’s Health Barometer data: http://www.edelman.com/healthengagement/

I will be tweeting this fall with updates from the release of the 2011 Edelman Health Barometer: @MichellWoodruff

Friend Ted, thanks for the much-tweeted post, drawing attention to this shift.

I'd like to sharpen the focus, if I may: this deck seems to be about trusting info about a company, not info in general, e.g. health info. Yes? No?

At first read I thought it was about all information, but slide 19's subtitle asks "If you heard information about a company from one of these people, how credible would that information be?"

(Heh heh, the baseline for comparison on that slide is 2009, which was the absolute cesspool bottom of CEO credibility, as auto execs flew to DC in their private jets, the financial sector was revealed to have screwed us, etc. That could affect why our peers (the rumor mill) were believed more as a source of info than the company's CEO.)

The footnote also says that these are the percents who answered "Extremely Credible" or "Very Credible." I'd love to see the whole dataset, to see how much the mean and media moved – do you know if they make that available, as Pew does?

(Yikes, I also just noticed that slide 2 says they only surveyed college educated, in the top 25% of the population.)


Hey Dave,

I think Michelle Woodruff's comment is really helpful:


It's a bit by inference, and that combined with Susannah Fox's data that shows that people reach out to health professionals most often make me want to include them more in the two way conversation. And to be clear (just in case I am not, often I am not!), I am not trying to diminish the importance of peer-peer connections, I feel like we should respect and include them in with the conversations with people who people trust most….

Those are my thoughts, if that helps? If not, say more,


The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer mainly explores trust and credibility as it relates to business in general, whereas the Edelman Health Barometer dives deeper into health information sources. However, the Edelman Trust Barometer does provide insight on trust in various industries including the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industries.

Since the Trust Barometer’s inception in 2001, it has studied a distinct subset of the population called the “informed publics” audience, which tends to be more regularly attuned to business news and information and, as we have observed, likely to act on its beliefs (either through purchase behavior or spreading “word-of-mouth”), and take steps to influence outward (to other publics within the general population). The Informed Publics audience is defined as those who have at least a college education, have a household income in the upper quartile of their country for their age group (25-34 or 35-64), pay close attention to business news and information and follow public policy issues closely.

Lastly, we are more than happy to provide additional information for publicly released data. However, there are aspects of the dataset that are proprietary to Edelman. Concerning the question around credible company spokespeople, the mean score for ‘a person like yourself’ declined from 2.55 in 2009 to 2.4 in 2011, while the mean score for a ‘CEO’ increased from 2.21 in 2009 to 2.6 in 2011. Below is the exact question as it appears in the survey:

“Now I’m going to read you a list of people. In general, when forming an opinion of a company, if you heard information about a company from that person, how credible would the information be–extremely credible, very credible, somewhat credible, or not credible at all? The first one is (INSERT). Would information about a company from that person be extremely credible, very credible, somewhat credible, or not credible at all?“

I manage the research for the Edelman Trust Barometer and the Edelman Health Barometer, therefore if you have any additional questions concerning either study feel free to contact me at [email protected]. I will also be posting study updates on twitter: @michellwoodruff

Thank you for the great questions and conversation around the Edelman data.


Ted Eytan, MD