by Bernard Golden

Trust and Influence

Feb 27, 20083 mins
IT Leadership

I attended a fascinating event at the Churchill Club last night: “Who Do You Trust? Trends in Trust and Influence for the Next Generation of Business Leaders.”

The panel focused not so much on future business leaders, but the 25 – 34 year old demographic in general, with some discussion about tweens and teenagers as well.

Here is what I heard that I thought particularly striking:

Richard Edelman, President of Edelman (PR firm): Edelman does an annual US trust survey across all ages. In general, there is increasing distrust of authority figures (political leader, CEO, etc.). People trust employees of a company twice as much as they trust the CEO of the company.

The two most trustworthy sources of information for 25 – 34 are business magazines and wikipedia. In general, this age group trusts businesses more than political institutions. This age group is less xenophobic than older Americans, with more comfort around diverse societies. Within the BRIC nations, this age group trusts social media more than newspapers or TV, probably a legacy of state-controlled media being considered untrustworthy.

Edelman noted that this age group looks to diverse information sources rather than relying on a newspaper or TV news; in essence, they use various online sources to construct their own newspaper comprised of feeds on different topics.

Robert Cialdini, professor of Social Psychology and President of Influence at Work (and author of the well-known book Influence): It’s not enough to present your position with competence if you want to convince/influence an audience. You also have to present information in an honest, straightforward way with no evidence of self-interest. In other words, unless you can convince the audience that you are not spinning your information, you will be less influential.

Anastasia Goodstein, Founder, Ypulse and Author of “Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online: Tweens and Teens are using online services to meet developmental needs like staying connected and hanging out. However, most of them share blindly, with no use of (or awareness of, apparently) privacy settings in sites like Facebook or MySpace. There is little perception of any need to shield personal information from others and this group seems willing to let it all hang out with no concern that the information might be something that one would wish wasn’t available at some future date.

The event was really interesting and a bit different than many Churchill Club events that focus on more purely technical topics. One fascinating question from the audience concerned Fake Steve Jobs. The questioner noted that FSJ’s posts “seem to get at truths that regular journalism can’t address and that many reporters envy FSJ’s ability to step away from ‘objective’ journalism.” The moderator, Katie Hafner of the New York Times, responded to the question; she didn’t address the envy part, but noted that Daniel Lyons, the real guy behind FSJ, gets lots of good info as background for his posts. As a side note, she said she had really enjoyed Options, the novel by FSJ (Lyons) and then asked how many in the audience had read it. In this middle-of-Silicon-Valley crowd, one person (!) raised his hand (and it wasn’t me). Based on her enthusiastic recommendation, I resolved to get it and read it right away. I read FSJ and always enjoy it, but my question is: how does Lyons do his regular journalism, calling on companies for information, when his alter ego has just finished skewering them? It seems like it would be awkward is all I’m saying.