What Happens When There is No Public Trust?



6P recently had the pleasure of being involved in the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association’s (CAMA) national conference on public trust. Robert, 6P’s Director of Client Strategy and agri-business and food sector leader, and President of the Manitoba chapter of CAMA, was the host.

There is no greater challenge facing the agricultural and food industry than that of earning and maintaining the trust of the consumer. As a communications and branding company, we’ve worked with ag/food organizations throughout the value chain on many issues, including the very timely and important focus of earning and maintaining the trust of the public.

Public trust is a complex issue, but can be summed up as social approval to operate. There are many examples here at home as well as internationally where either a company or industry has lost the trust of the public. When this happens it sometimes means the company will no longer be able to operate and, in other cases, significant requirements are forced onto the company or industry by either public pressure or increased government regulations.

As Manitoba’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Dori Gingera-Beauchemin says, earning public trust is about doing the right thing, assurance and verification, and communicating these commitments. As a whole, the agricultural industry does a good job of doing the right thing, but communicating these commitments and leading with shared values of the public? Not so much.

Consumers know very little about how their food is grown, and what they do know may be based on misnomers and partial truths. Food communicators and marketers have done a really good job at imparting the tastiness, healthiness and convenience of our food, but a poor job in explaining how our food is grown and raised.

The conference, which was actually billed as a working session (and delivered on that promise), brought together every commodity throughout the food value chain, media, research organizations and government, and resulted in an industry collaboration that hasn’t taken place very often in the past.  These convergences are vital as public trust is an industry issue, regardless of where an organization may fall in the value chain.

The lineup of presenters from across North America delivered on their promise of presenting best practices of their public trust communications case studies. Presenters included McDonald’s Canada, GMO Answers and Maple Leaf Foods.

There were countless takeaways that we’ll be applying to the work we do with our clients.

Actions the industry needs to take:

  1. Speak up. There are many voices spreading misinformation
  2. Unite and collaborate. People eat food, not one commodity
  3. Encourage government to talk about the benefits of food production and modern technology
  4. Use modern communication technology
  5. Create engaging conversations
  6. Speak from your expert position
  7. Offer yourself up to groups
  8. Speak from the heart at the cocktail event, the grocery store or the skating rink

Conversation priorities:

  1. Speak the same language… food
  2. We share the same values as you
  3. Family farms are different from 50 years ago
  4. Agriculture is way more efficient due to technical advancements than even 10 years ago
  5. The percentage of household income going to food has never been lower
  6. Big is not bad


Snapshots from the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association’s (CAMA) national conference on public trust:

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