Report: Top 10 most- and least-trusted industries

Consumer confidence waxes and wanes based on organizations’ past actions, current events, perceived brand images and more. Here’s what you can do if your company is near the bottom.

Few themes have overtaken American society over the past few years quite like trust has.

Reading PR case studies (including those on PR Daily) can be a crash course in which organizations you can and cannot trust. Reading political news today, you might get the sense that there’s no one you can trust.

Still, we have to trust someone or something, right?

A recent study from Halo, an e-cigarette company (of all places) surveyed 500 Americans to find out which industries they trust the most.

Here are the top 10 fields that inspire confidence:

1. Scientific

2. Technology

3. Military

4. Education

5. Arts, entertainment and recreation

6. Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting

7. Construction

8. Transportation and warehousing

9. Medical and health care

10. Hotel, food, services and hospitality

The industries in which consumers have the least certainty are:

1. Oil and petroleum

2. Marketing and advertising

3. Finance and insurance

4. Government and public administration

5. Religious

6. Broadcasting and journalism

7. Mining and mineral extraction

8. Legal

9. Real estate, rental and leasing

10. Telecommunications

There are several reasons industries have made it to the bottom of the trust scale, the report revealed:

… From long-standing controversies to the impact they’ve had on the environment, experts say oil companies have established a reputation for corruption that may be hard to undo. People also were hesitant to trust industries like marketing and advertising, finance and insurance, and government and public administration.

Given that some industries, like the tobacco industry, spend around 25 million dollars a day to market their products, sometimes even to children that don’t fully understand the health effect of their habit, it’s no wonder why! In some ways however, their dishonesty may go unnoticed by a majority of the public. While not voted among the least trustworthy corporations by those we surveyed, in 2015, a federal court ruled that the tobacco companies would be required to admit their products were deliberately designed to be addictive – but not that they’d lied about it. Had the ruling gone another way, these same companies would have been required to air court-ordered advertisements that publicly branded them as liars.

There are also many unsavory actions and decisions that can erode consumer trust, such as mislabeling a product’s weight or ingredients or paying professionals to remove negative online reviews.

How can brand managers increase confidence in their organization, especially if they’re in an industry which in the bottom 10? Halo’s report revealed that consumer reviews were the “largest indicator of trust”:

Sites that host these reviews earn tremendous web traffic, and the number of reviews a company gets also affects how easily searchable they are online. In 2015, Yelp – one of the biggest online consumer review sites in the country – was worth more than $3.5 billion. Currently, TripAdvisor is worth $6.5 billion dollars.

It’s not the only way you spread your organization’s message in a way that fosters transparency and trust. Here are a few other ideas—which might be helpful if your industry could use a confidence boost:

What techniques have you seen that help cut through consumer mistrust?

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