By Alexandra Finch
The world’s leading public relations firm, Edelman, presented findings from its global Trust Barometer survey Feb. 26 at The Vancouver Board of Trade. This event was sponsored by Edelman, UBC Sauder School of Business and Business in Vancouver.
Edelman’s own Ben Boyd, Global Chair Corporate Practice, and CEO John Clinton, gave a keynote address explaining the survey’s research methodology. The survey, which is released each year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, surveyed more than 33,000 respondents in 27 countries about the kinds of businesses and institutions they trust.
Focusing on Canadian data, Clinton and Boyd compared the findings between Canadian and global trends in trust and credibility.
The trust gap between business and government gap globally is 14 per cent, and is higher in Canada. Clinton told the audience the gap is “an opportunity for business to take a leadership role,” and said data from the survey suggests that businesses should be actively involved with governments to shape and form regulation.
In Canada, technology continues to dominate the rankings as the industry that Canadians trust the most. Unlike other countries surveyed, Canadian banks remained relatively neutral in the eyes of the public. Global trust for Canadian companies is very high, with both Americans and Canadians ranking the greatest trust with Canadian firms. Clinton said this is good news for Canadian companies, and he suggested that Canadian firms “promote, and not hide their Canadian-ness,” as it is a positive export value.
Small and family-owned businesses have a trust advantage, except in Asia, where three-quarters of respondents trust multinationals the most. In general, firms that are privately-held rank higher than publicly traded firms.
CEOs were perceived among the least trustworthy by the public, while members of the board were not perceived as council, but as an extension of the CEO. Edelman encourages firms to utilise the title of Chief Engagement Officer, as the CEO has the greatest advantage of creating, owning and driving their own model of engagement to stakeholders.
The presentation was followed by an expert panel discussion with local media, business and academic influencers about what the Trust Barometer means locally. Seasoned broadcaster Bill Good; Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester; Shell-led LNG Canada GM Susannah Pierce and Beedie School of Business Centre for Corporate Governance & Risk Management Director Michael Parent, discussed how Canadian data takes shape in the current economic landscape.
Price said she finds that, in the energy sector, overcoming social risks is more significant than technical risk. She encourages firms to learn from competitors’ mistakes, to recognize challenges, and to define a brand on those challenges. Building targeted community relationships to engage maximum dialogue is the most effective way of building trust, she said.
Academics continue to be the most trustworthy among respondents. Representing SFU, Parent said that it is first and foremost a dichotomous concept. He stressed that the more visibility a person has, the more competency, honour, integrity and morality is needed to attain trust.
Well-know radio show host Bill Good said that companies must define their own trustworthiness to consumers and society before somebody else defines it for them, whilePort Metro Vancouver’s CEO Robin Silvester said that to establish trust, companies must have a “good story.” Having engaged employees is essential, said Silvester, because employees act as an organization’s best spokespeople.
Edelman’s findings show the power of perception in determining institutional trust. The panel experts demonstrated a consensus of trust being based on transparency and authentic messaging, and to further build trust, firms should focus on “showing, not telling.”
Please click here for Edelman Trust Barometer Report 2014