The Australian public sector overall has a reputation and image perception that can be dealt with with determination, humanity and courage in 2022. Trust across the sector is not at its best. However, the situation offers real opportunities for recalibrating professional images and personal brands.
The survey says
Roy Morgan 2021 Job Image Survey found that only 27% of Australians rate public servants as having high levels of trust and ethics. That’s a steep drop from 37% in 2017. But federal and state deputies fare even worse, at just 7%, down from 16% in 2017. As this chart from Roy Morgan, other sectors also face considerable image challenges.
The Australian Institute of Governance 2021 Ethics Index Report found that only 57% of Australians thought the public service was ethical. Although they fare better than Roy Morgan’s conclusions, the discrepancies are implied in this table:
The new release Edelmen Trust Barometer 2022 The global report provides an interesting statistic on the importance of trust and perception.
It was found that 59% of respondents worldwide had distrust by default (tendency to be suspicious until proven trustworthy) vs 41% with trust by default (tendency to trust until I see evidence that something is untrustworthy). Although this is a global survey, the results are important for understanding the nuances of opinions.
Additionally, Edelman reported that Australians overall have 52% trust in government, down 9% from the previous year.
What does trust look like
The Governance Institute of Australia also surveyed the top things people trusted.
Although not industry specific, the results clearly speak to all industries and occupations.
The three main elements were:
- Highly ethical leadership
This is crucial information to integrate and demonstrate in all communications.
How beliefs and perceptions arise
Beliefs and perceptions come from many sources. Made up of first-hand experiences, relayed second-hand opinions and experiences, populist hearsay and media narratives, they are often a tightly knit mix of conscious and/or unconscious biases. And in recent years, the level of misinformation and scathing rhetoric on social media has done an industry or profession a disservice, let alone the public sector. But are these opinions fair and logical? Often this is not the case, but perceptions are taken as reality and assumptions and biases need to be challenged and reframed.
How to build a good reputation
Embracing your unique purpose and taking control of your personal brand narrative is key. What you don’t discuss and/or address is left to a feverish imagination that can run wild.
The recent story and positive feedback from Channel 7’s Rebecca Maddern and Mike Amor discussing (in private) their honest opinions on the Novak Djokovic saga is proof that people want to see greater truth from leaders. Trust is built when we know how people feel, as opposed to expected political rhetoric.
While I’m not advocating the expletive style per se, I do advocate for leaders to share their honest opinions more frequently, albeit in an elegant and deft manner.
The following tips impact websites, LinkedIn, media, and all other communication touchpoints:
- Address the elephant in the room and speak to negative perceptions. Acknowledge the charges you face and how you approach things differently.
- Provide comfort and examples of how you or your service are unique in areas that have a lackluster reputation.
- Communicate your values and what matters to you and your area of expertise. Share stories and show rather than tell with humanity.
- Build a body of content, suitable for media. Share relevant department and professional information and share your honest opinions with gravitas (as above).
- Be transparent in sharing best practices, processes and methods. In Virtue, it will demonstrate differences and reframe perceptions of past negative experiences.
- The Feel, Felt, Found tool is powerful for unpacking negativity (feeling); sit next to the other person with empathy and (felt) recognition; draw examples and ask questions to reframe the real situation (found).
- Be visible, don’t hide – always post current photos and your professional background, goals and purpose.
While calling the elephant in the room is essential, recognize that change is gradual but comes from courage and determination. And each piece of this great elephant of distrust and repression builds a stronger reputation that will have personal and general impact.
We all need to step up with more transparency and courage this year, regardless of sector or profession.
Political polarization slowed after a newspaper removed national politics from its opinion pages