Global Practices

Three Key Things You Must Know To Do Business in California



California prides itself on being just a little bit different, and once again this year, trust-related Edelman research has some interesting findings, suited not just for our Sacramento public affairs clients, but for anyone looking to communicate in the Golden State.

Across the world, the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer showed a crisis in business and government leadership, with respondents reporting very low trust in leaders’ ethics and morality. In fact, less than one in five say they believe business (18 percent) or governmental leaders (13 percent) will tell the truth when confronted with a difficult issue to discuss.

In California, as usual, it’s a different story. One of the first things you need to know if you’re doing business here is that Californians have a relatively high level of trust in their government. According to a custom study based on the Edelman Trust Barometer, Californians’ trust in state government is stronger than 22 of the 26 we survey for trust data. More than half of Californians (56 percent) trust the state government to do what is right, whereas only a little more than a third (38 percent) of U.S. respondents trust government, in general, to do what is right.

Those who trust state government most live around Los Angeles and outlying regions. Interestingly, the California data indicates the closer respondents live to the State Capitol, the less trust they have in state government. It appears having more first-hand knowledge of government’s day-to-day operations has a negative relationship to trust – perhaps due to more frequent coverage of government’s problems in the daily news and more direct participation in government by more of the population in the Sacramento and San Francisco markets.

When it comes to doing business in California, our second key finding is that while technology is still the most-trusted industry, Californians trust the tech industry to do what’s right at lower levels than the U.S. overall – perhaps due to being more familiar with the business side of the technology business. Respondents did say they value most the jobs that tech firms bring to the Golden State and the fact that companies remain in California. They also credit technology with helping to improve peoples’ lives and cited that tech companies don’t often seem to be involved in leadership scandals.

Our third key finding: 39 percent of Californians trust a company more when products or services are being promoted in a language other than English. Californians recognize and appreciate those brands that are going the extra mile to reach their customers in the languages they speak. This result speaks to the diverse nature of California’s population and the importance of expanding your outreach efforts when doing business here.

California is very often a national leader – what happens here often leads the way for other states and the rest of the U.S. For organizations looking to steer into the future, California is often the place to start engaging with key audiences. For others who are looking to understand California and get things done in the Golden State, one important overall takeaway is that California is a country unto itself that, in many cases, thinks and acts quite differently from other areas of the U.S.

​Steve Telliano is general manager, Sacramento and managing director of client services for Edelman U.S.’s Western region.

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