This week, PR agency Edelman Canada unveiled its “Trust Barometer,” which aims to educate media, businesses and government on the status of public trust. Given that 2016 was largely considered the year of “post-truth,” it’s unlikely that many will be surprised at this year’s results. The results were presented live by Lisa Kimmel, President and Chief Executive Officer, Edelman Canada.
A panel debated the results, which included Steve Ladurantaye, Managing Editor, Digital News at the CBC, Scott Reid, Principal at Feschuk-Reid, Jan De Silva, President & CEO at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Gary Doer, Senior Business Advisor at Dentons and Saul Klein, PHD, Dean & Lansdowne Professor of International Business, Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.
Here are a few insights that we found particularly notable:
Trust in Canadian institutions has fallen since last year
For the first time since Edelman started tracking the general population, Canada finds itself among countries who distrust their institutions (49%). For reference, Edelman classifies institution as government, business, media and non-government-organizations (NGOs). Given that 2 in 3 countries are now considered “distrusters,” multinational corporation must take these stark differences into account.
Canada is no longer immune to populism
There is a growing divide between the informed public (educated, upper-quartile income earners) and the rest of Canada. In fact, the gap is nearly double what it was last year and is rivaling gaps in countries like the U.S., U.K., and France. “Donald Trump’s politics aren’t coming out of a vacuum,” said Klein. “They are a reflection of real people’s concerns.”
Canadians also share more of their neighbours’ fears and concerns than expected. We are nearly as concerned about globalization, immigration, eroding social values, and pace of innovation as Americans are. One in two respondents agreed that “the influx of people from other countries is damaging our economy and national culture.” About half of respondents also believe that globalization is taking our country in the wrong direction and 69% want institutions to prioritize Canadian interests over the rest of the world.
Media and Government remain the least trusted
While trust has declined amongst all four measured types of institutions, media saw the largest decline and government remains the most mistrusted. This is especially startling, given the media’s role of keeping government’s accountable to the general public. It’s no doubt that fake news has had a significant impact on this. In December, an Ipsos survey commissioned by BuzzFeed found that fake news headlines fooled American adults about 75% of the time.
Canadian’s trust in traditional media is almost equal to trust in search engine information. Moreover, media as an institution is trusted just as much as online-only media, which is where “fake news” often resides. It’s clear that the blurred lines between editorial and paid content is taking its toll on Canadians.
The problem causers and solvers are the same person
Over two-thirds of Canadians blame the government for the country’s problems, but just as many believe that the government is responsible for fixing these problems. While less than one-third blame the media for Canada’s problems, only 14 percent believe that the media should participate in solving these problems. This statistic troubled Ladurantaye the most. “The media strives not only to shed light on societal problems, but also offer some insights on how these problems can be solved,” he said.
Bias as an information filter
Change is not in the air as nearly half of Canadians never or rarely change their position on important social issues. What’s even more alarming is that they are 3.5x more likely to ignore information that supports a position that they don’t believe in. “Many readers are asking us not to cover certain stories, like the refugee border crossings in Manitoba,” said Ladurantaye. So not only are many of us set in our ways, we are consciously choosing to ignore information. This is supported by the fact that “a person like me” is now almost as trusted as academic and technical experts.
Employees are your most credible resource
Sometimes your CEO may not be the best spokesperson. “The single biggest underused asset of business is the employee population,” said Ben Boyd, President, Practices and Sectors and Chief Executive Officer, Edelman Canada and Latin America. “Canadians prefer authentic information that comes from real people,” added Kimmel.
Working with instead of for people
For decades, institutions held the highest form of influence and authority, doing things “for” people. In fact, 80% of people think that the “elites” who run institutions are out of touch with regular people. There’s no doubt that the power of influencer has shifted in favour of the public, who use influence to reject established authority. “Influence is no longer automatically granted to those in authority,” said Kimmel.
How can companies re-build trust?
The results showed that Canadian companies are still ranked highest in global trust, giving them an opportunity to lead the charge and set the global agenda. Over 75% of people believe that companies can take specific actions that not only benefit themselves financially, but also improve the economic and social conditions within their community. But how?
Treating employees well, listening to customer needs & feedback, and having ethical business practices are the most valued trust-building attributes to Canadians. “This slide is a blueprint for the ways that companies can build trust,” said Kimmel.
Note that the gap between importance and performance ranges from 25 to 30 points for the most valued attributes, so there are lots of opportunities for growth and change.
Which findings stood out to you most? Tell us in the comments below, or tweet us @CNWGroup.