“Why do we continue to put our CEOs in front of audiences when surveys show they have at best limited credibility?”

This question came from Michael Morley, chair of Echo Research and one of the more insightful communicators in our profession. He asked it during an Echo Chamber panel discussion in New York in early November. The basis is a survey showing CEOs ranking near the bottom of credible spokespersons. People are especially skeptical of CEOs these days, though they have never been near the top of the “most credible” lists. Despite this piece of research, corporate communicators almost invariably include CEO speaking opportunities in every corporate public relations plan.

I started to wonder if we undervalue and underutilize good research which is readily available.

How many recommendations are made on the basis of past experience or what has appeared to work for other clients or on our own gut feel about the right thing to do? How often do we have solid research to back up our recommendations? And when research like the ranking of most credible individuals is available, how do we use that to shape our recommendations?

It’s easy enough to dig up research to support our position once we’ve already made up our minds on what we want to recommend. Much more valuable is to look at good research, consider the implications and then allow it to shape our recommendations.

We might want to consider how we can enlist the support of nurses to communicate our messages, since they were far and away viewed as the most honest, ethical and credible people in society. With 84% of the population trusting nurses and less than 30% trusting CEOs, perhaps we should all aspire to find out what makes nurses so trustworthy and then recommend that our companies do that.