We have a problem. A trust problem. We just aren’t a very trusting people.

Just look at the latest results from Gallup on how much trust we put, or don’t put, in various groups of people.

Not a very promising picture. We just don’t seem to have very much trust in most groups of people, particularly in the realms of business and politics.

So if we’re not trusting most of these folks, who are we trusting?

I bet if the same folks were asked, they would all be able to identify individuals in each of those groups that they DO trust. We might not trust business executives, but perhaps we trust John Smith who happens to be a business executive. Why? Because we know him and we have experience with him.

But when it comes to groups of people, institutions, and some individuals, there is both the perception and the reality. They may actually be doing things that cause us to mistrust them, which leads to widespread perceptions. Though sometimes the perception is there, regardless of the reality.

Advertising practitioners only get 11% for high or very high trust. I would bet that in most people’s minds, that includes marketers and PR practitioners. That’s why Gini Dietrich is working hard over at Spin Sucks to change both the reality and the perception of those in the PR industry.

Who do we trust?

If we’re not trusting groups of people or institutions, who are we trusting?

People. Our friends. Individuals.

This is why social media works: it’s based on our personal connections, and spreading word of mouth to and from the people we trust. We’d rather trust the opinions of those we connect with in person and online, over any paid forms of marketing or advertising.

This isn’t a matter of Klout or measuring influence. It’s a matter of me trusting a particular friend or acquaintance. Some people just engender our trust by the way they act and live their lives.

If their is a perception that we can’t be trusted, what are we doing about it? Does the perception line up with reality? If so, what are we doing to regain their trust?

If it’s merely a perception, how can we repair it?

We need to constantly work at not just being trustworthy, but appearing trustworthy. Both are important.

Who do you trust, and why? And how do others view you and your level of trustworthiness?