Bruce MacLellan is the CEO of Proof Inc., a Canadian-headquartered communications marketing firm
Canadians casually observing public reaction toward politicians may be tempted to say that trust in the public sector is at an all-time low. However, upon closer examination, when it comes to who Canadians trust, the public sector still has the upper hand.
It's fair to say that trust in the public sector is in our DNA. In survey after survey, we find that trust among Canadians for government and public-sector services runs well ahead of the private sector. In many cases, it's not even close. Furthermore, these higher trust levels have been holding during the same recent years in which other countries have been experiencing a crisis of trust.
Canada's political culture blends individual liberty with a strong commitment to equitable access to important services, and this combination is globally known to be part of our national identity. Sometimes traced to the Constitution's "peace, order and good government" clause, these values manifest in our healthy and active public sector.
Many private corporations encounter this active public sector every day, through regulations, legislation, overlap or other manifestations. They need to remember that trust is often the foundation for approval, and in almost every situation the Canadian public sector has more of it in the bank.
The AmericasBarometer found in 2017 that Canadians express higher levels of trust in most major public institutions versus Americans. Furthermore, these levels have been steady during recent years, where other countries have experienced populist turbulence. Our company's 2017 CanTrust Study also supports this.
Public health care is seen as a distinct feature of Canada, and Canadians like it. Our 2017 survey of trust levels showed that trust in hospitals ranked at 63 per cent, one of the highest scores for any sector. Trust in government over all among Canadians was 43 per cent, compared with trust in large corporations at 31 per cent. Pharmaceutical companies came in at 26 per cent.
The public-sector preference is also evident in media trust. The trust level in the news media over all among Canadians in 2018 is healthy at 53 per cent, but for the public broadcaster, CBC/Radio Canada, that trust jumps substantially to 72 per cent.
These differing trust levels can be a shock to multinational companies when they come to Canada. Any private business needs to be aware of it. Their question then becomes: What is my private enterprise's trust-building strategy? Here are three steps they can take, as a start.
First, trust by association: Businesses need to know the right company to keep. Not-for-profits are trust leaders in Canada at 62 per cent, double that of large corporations. Partnerships and collaboration can work favourably for private companies looking to lay down a baseline of trust.
Secondly, trust by communication: Trust is built by positive experiences that are supported by word of mouth from your ideal customer's friends and family. If you have good products or services, make sure you are generating awareness through the right channels.
Finally, trust by leadership: People tell us that a driver of trust is chief executive visibility and regular communications, both in person and through social media. The days of ivory-tower leadership are long gone. Take that old approach, and you'll simply communicate to Canadians how out of touch you are.
For those companies setting up shop in Canada, understanding our society's mindset and knowing how to earn our trust is important to operating alongside a strong public sector.
Trust and success go hand in hand – and building trust is as important as building profits. The result will be stronger brands and corporate reputations – what shareholder wouldn't like that?