Canadians Place Increasing Trust in NGOs as Trust in Business and Government Remains Steady

2011 Edelman Trust Barometer Reinforces Need for Corporations to Align with Society's Interests in Creating Shareholder Value

TORONTO, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - In a year marred by corporate crises and financial turmoil around the globe, Canada enjoyed stable levels of trust in business, according to the 11thannual Edelman Trust Barometer - an international trust and credibility study of informed publics aged 25-to-64 conducted by Edelman, the world's largest independent public relations firm.

Yet despite this stability, conclusions drawn from the data indicate that trust is now different and conditional, and is premised on what a company does and how it communicates. In fact, informed publics in Canada now trust NGOs much more than business (72 per cent vs. 50 per cent, respectively), demonstrating a strong need for corporations to create value in a way that aligns with society's interests, not just profits.

"Historically, business and NGOs have usually been on par with one another in this country, but we're now seeing a 22 point trust gap between these two institutions," said Heather Conway, CEO, Edelman Canada. "There is a greater expectation in business to be aligned with social interests - and NGOs are not only perceived as stable and trusted, they obviously put social interests front and centre." 

Overall, Canada climbed to the fifth spot - up from the seventh, among the 12 countries surveyed in 2008 in the Barometer's trust composite score - an average of a country's trust in business, government, NGOs and media. Canada now significantly surpasses the U.S., which sits in the bottom three with the U.K. and Russia. Canadian-headquartered companies also continue to maintain high levels of trust around the world (75 per cent), and remain one of the top three trusted "headquarter countries," along with Germany and Sweden.

Trust Protects Reputation
When a company is distrusted at the outset, most informed publics in Canada (63 per cent) will believe negative information about it after hearing the information just once or twice.  Only seven per cent will believe positive information about the distrusted company after hearing it one or two times. Most respondents also say they need to hear something three to five times to believe it (65 per cent) - a marked difference from the U.S. and the U.K., where approximately one-quarter (23 and 27 per cent, respectively) say they need to hear something six or more times to believe it, twice as many as two years ago.

"Trust has transformed the license to operate for business," said Richard Edelman, president and CEO, Edelman.  "Company actions must deliver on the expectations for a collaborative approach that benefits society - not just shareholders; transparency about how the company makes money; and communication in surround-sound through all forms of media - from mainstream to new to social to owned."

The most important corporate reputation factors in Canada are transparent and honest business practices, quality products, trust, and employee welfare, while a company's financial performance is at the bottom of 10 factors.  Overall, 82 per cent of Canadian informed publics want business to create shareholder value in a way that aligns with society's interests, even if that means sacrificing shareholder value.

Seventy-four per cent in Canada say that government must regulate corporate activity to ensure business is behaving responsibly, one of the highest percentages in the world next to the U.K. and Ireland (82 per cent each) - possibly reinforcing the importance for companies to view the opportunity to engage, partner and work with government as a way to build or regain trust.

Who and What do Canadians Trust? 
The Barometer finds a flight to credentialed spokespersons, with academics and technical experts as most credible and a "person like me" least credible. CEOs now rank among the top credible spokespeople globally and in Canada - a striking rise from two years ago when they were in the bottom two globally.

Search engines rank in the top spot as the place Canadians go first for information about a company, followed by online news sources and print media.  Traditional news, in one form or another, rank as the most trusted sources (business magazines, newspapers, radio and television, respectively).  

"People are behaving like smart consumers when it comes to news and information, turning first to search engines to see what is available on the topic they are interested in, and then seeking out traditional media to confirm or expand on what they learn," said Neal Flieger, chair, StrategyOne, Edelman's research firm, which conducted the Barometer. "Information ubiquity has changed the playbook for corporate communications.  A company with a message can't simply be present, but rather omnipresent." 

Overall, trust in most industries is up globally.  In Canada, technology remains in the top spot for the third straight year at 68 per cent, followed by brewing and spirits (58 per cent) and food and beverage along with retail, which are both tied for third at 56 per cent.  Though financial services is the least trusted sector globally (50 per cent) and banks the second-least trusted (51 per cent), Canadian banks have enjoyed year-over-year stability, with virtually no change in trust from 2008 to 2011 (51 per cent vs. 52 per cent, respectively). 

Other key Canadian findings of the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • In crises, people want to hear from different voices depending on the situation - but the company must be vocal.  During a company crisis, Canadians trust third party experts most to deliver honest information (35 per cent) while during a product recall, both the CEO and company technical expert are the preferred spokespeople, tied at 35 per cent.  When the local community has been damaged, the balance changes again, with half of Canadians (50 per cent) preferring to hear from the CEO - a full 35 percentage points above any other spokesperson option.
  • In the last 12 months, 94 per cent of respondents report they have bought the products or services of a company they trusted; conversely, 92 per cent say they refused to buy products or services from one they did not trust.
  • Canadians are most trusting of companies headquartered here (75 per cent.)  Canadians also have high levels of trust in companies headquartered in most European countries and Japan, with Japan seeing an 11-point increase in trust from 54 to 65 per cent from 2010 to 2011.

About the Edelman Trust Barometer                                                                                                                             
The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer is the firm's 11th annual trust and credibility survey. The survey was produced by research firm StrategyOne and consisted of 30-minute telephone interviews conducted from October 11 - November 28, 2010, with the exception of France and Germany, fielded January 3-13, 2011. The 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer survey sampled 5,075 informed publics in two age groups (25-34 and 35-64) in 23 countries. All informed publics met the following criteria: college-educated; household income in the top quartile for their age in their country; read or watch business/news media at least several times a week; follow public policy issues in the news at least several times a week. For more information, visit http://www.edelman.com/trust  or call 212.704.4530.

About Edelman
Edelman is the world's largest independent public relations firm, with wholly-owned offices in 53 cities and 3,700 employees worldwide. Edelman was named Advertising Age's top-ranked PR firm of the decade and one of its "2010 A-List Agencies" and "2010 Best Places to Work;" European Excellence Awards' "2010 Agency of the Year;" PRWeek's "2009 Agency of the Year;" Holmes Report's "Agency of the Decade" and "2009 Asia Pacific Consultancy of the Year;" and among Glassdoor's top five "2011 Best Places to Work."  Edelman owns specialty firms Blue (advertising), StrategyOne (research), Ruth (integrated marketing), DJE Science (medical education/publishing and science communications), and MATTER (sports, sponsorship, and entertainment). Visit www.edelman.ca for more information on Edelman Canada.

SOURCE Edelman Public Relations Worldwide

For further information:

Michael Thomson
Edelman
Direct Line: 416-849-8937
michael.thomson@edelman.com

James Bigg
Edelman
Direct line: 416-849-2496
james.bigg@edelman.com

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Edelman Public Relations Worldwide

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