Building Public Trust is all about being fair and honest - the true hallmark of the best reporting

25 July 2019

By Alan McGill, Partner and Leader of the Building Public Trust Awards

“…….as the 22 members of the public filed out at the end of a long day, they left us with much food for thought, plus some great new thinking to incorporate into our BPTA assessment criteria. And the underlying message was unequivocal: in the eyes of the Great British public, building trust is all about being fair and honest in everything you do⎯and being seen to be fair and honest. That’s the true hallmark of the best reporting.”

What do you get when you bring together 22 members of the public in a room with a team of PwC reporting experts, and ask them what they think of today’s reporting and how it could be improved? The answer⎯as we discovered recently⎯is a whole lot of useful insights for us and the companies we work with.

The most important of those insights? That what people are really looking for from organisations and their reporting comes down to one simple concept: fairness. This was the message which came across loud and clear from our first ever Building Public Trust Public Opinion Day.

This roundtable event, which we hosted at our offices at London Bridge, represented a new approach to incorporating the views of the general public into our annual Building Public Trust Awards (BPTA) process. Now in its 17th year, BPTA has always stayed relevant to the evolving trust agenda through constant fine-tuning and innovation.

Like many innovations, it represented a step forward from something that already works well. In the past few years, the judging process for BPTA has included “People’s Panels”, where members of the public get to assess the reporting by the shortlisted companies for each award. Their views are then used as input for the independent judging panel to make the final decisions.

However, this year we’ve decided to get the public involved before the shortlists have been selected. This allows us to find out up front what they’re looking for in reporting, and feed that into the criteria for our initial screening process.

That’s how the concept of the Public Opinion Day was born. And to turn it into reality, we invited 22 people representing a cross-section of the British public to join us for a fast-paced and highly interactive discussion about reporting.

What did they tell us? A huge number of things, too numerous to list here. But to give you flavour, they told us the top information items they wanted from different types of organisation, ranging from international corporations to charities to public sector bodies. They listed the types of information they’d like in each area of reporting, from strategy to cyber to taxation to remuneration. And they discussed our new BPTA category this year—“Impact on workforce and society”—and said it should look for clarity on employee benefits, staff training and community activities.

Finally, we pulled everything together by asking how our panellists wanted organisations to communicate the information they were looking for. They felt that while the traditional annual report might work for large investors, the information needed to be as accessible and understandable as possible to engage the general public.

Specific suggestions included more use of social media and YouTube to show short, punchy, engaging videos communicating key corporate information, perhaps overseen by a regulatory body checking facts and calling out ‘fake news’. The panellists were also keen to see companies engage more with local communities through initiatives like holding “open door days” and setting up pop-up shops.

 

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