Over the last decade or so, the term “transparency” has become a major buzzword in business. Its definition has evolved from more than just the ability to be sheer enough to see through. It is now insinuates ethics and accountability.
This popular noun is somewhat ubiquitous throughout the professional world. Many companies are changing the way they engage their clients due to this important communication trend. What is responsible for this shift in communication strategy? One of the main factors is IPRA’s Campaign for Media Transparency. This campaign began in 2001 and arguably was a major jumping off point for the transparency push that is so popular today. The transparency charter, a product of the campaign, called for ethical relationships between public relations firms and the media. Although transparency has become an integral influence spanning various business sectors, the origins can arguably be traced back to (you guessed it) public relations.
Another important factor is the shift in business culture to incorporate ethical messages in mission and vision statements. These vary from the promise to recycle to embracing diversity to the promise to provide accurate and up to date knowledge to stakeholders. Consumers want to engage with companies they trust. This is first gained through these eloquent promises, but kept only through accountable actions.
Perhaps one of the biggest fuels for transparency is the explosion of social media. The age of sharing and publically documenting all is in full effect. It used to be that Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were entirely casual applications for friends to connect with one another. However, businesses have embraced these “casual” interfaces, documenting, hashtaging, uploading and capturing many aspects of their products, services and cultures for all to see.
While this can be an effective means of communication and brand awareness, there is a delicate line between not enough information and too much information. Posting haphazardly in an effort to be transparent can have disastrous results. Back in 2011, Hewlett-Packard demonstrated these pitfalls by revealing too much on their Linkedin profile in an effort to engage and inform their consumer base. Unfortunately it only incurred company losses and tipped off competitors. While sharing information with consumers is a major cornerstone of transparency, it must be done in a responsible manner.
According to the Journal of Management’s article Organizational Transparency: A New Perspective on Managing Trust in Organization-Stakeholder Relationships there are three characteristics of effective transparency in a business setting. These include information disclosure, clarity and accuracy. It’s the clear and responsible communication to stakeholders and the public about both company successes and failures that demonstrates an ethical and trustworthy business. This is accomplished through accountability and responsibility carried in the vessel of transparency.
Are you keeping up with the latest communication strategies? What have you noticed evolving to the forefront of communications recently? Comment below to keep the conversation going.
Lory Cantrell is an Administrative Assistant at Lovell Communications. Connect with Lory at firstname.lastname@example.org
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