Don’t run after Forrest Gump

The “100 Most Trusted People in America” list is the result of a nationwide US research poll to discover which public figures, have earned Americans’ confidence.

Trust is viewed in America, as it is in all parts of the world, as a currency, where its valued in relationships, and worshipped in almost all faiths. Trust really matters in all spheres of our lives and without it family, business, politics, sports and in fact every social interaction is handicapped.

The research asked a representative sample to rate and rank the trustworthiness of over a 1000 American opinion shapers, leaders and headline makers from 15 highly influential professions. The respondents were also asked to rate the key individuals in their own immediate lives against the same criteria.

What was revealed is that first and foremost Americans trust people they know more than those who are famous. If this sentiment is shared by South Africans this is good news for Zestlife as we know our policyholders know us through our interactions and real contact relationships not PR and advertising. There were three professions that came out on top as extremely or very trustworthy: 77%* of respondents named their personal doctors, followed by their spiritual advisors (71%), and their children’s current teachers (66%). Despite having the highest trust ratings these three groups were excluded in the final list which focuses on American public figures.

The final results as to which public figures Americans trust most are as revealing as much as they are sad. The top 4 most trustworthy people in order were Tom Hanks who earned the highest score, making him America’s most trusted man (65%), Sandra Bullock‘s handling of her cheating spouse and adopted son earned her the highest score as America’s most trusted woman (63%). Legends Denzel Washington (62%), Meryl Streep (61%).

To me actors are a flawed choice and it’s sad that the public should trust those most that are paid to portray themselves as individuals they are not. These actors take the top 4 spots ahead of Doctors, Economists, Scientists, Philanthropists and even Supreme Court Judges who have all done more to illustrate their humanity and honesty through their actions than Forrest Gump. If South Africans also have this blurred sense of knowing where the real actor ends and the screen character begins, then this is not good for Zestlife. I say this because it implies that trust can be bought through a portrayal of characterisations and media story lines which means mega advertising and PR spend can trump trustworthy behaviour and deeds. The implication is that form beats substance and high profile portrayal of trust is more influential than trustworthy action.

At Zestlife we’d prefer to commit spending to servicing our policyholders and attracting the best people rather than spending money on advertising and round the clock PR. We believe that we will still reach our goal of earning our policyholder’s trust and confidence, we just need to take more inspiration from our Doctors, Children’s Teachers, Spiritual Leaders and less direction from Forrest Gump.

The big BIG result to emerge from the survey, although we hardly needed confirmation, is that Madiba is considered the most trustworthy person on the planet. And this is good for all South Africans.