“The Uncomfortable Age of Transparency.”

With massive influx of social media outlets over the past decade, companies are finding it more difficult to sweep bad press, practices and procedures under the rug. As this new online flow of information continues to grow, many companies have chosen to embrace it and embark into new territory of enhanced transparency.

“Businesses now really need to understand something that governments, dictators didn’t understand. Someday you’ll be busted. Anything you do will be known. Social media’s gonna get you, and if you’re lying we’re gonna know,” Egyptian filmmaker Amr Salama

When organizations take the initiative to use social media as a communications medium, it allows them to take more control of what is being communicated.  This control can be beneficial in several ways:

  • twitter-libel-slander-defamationCan diffuse any false information from other sources.
  • The organization can state the information first.
  • Any concerns the public has may be answered straight from the source.
  • You offer the public more value.

From a public relations, and sometimes even from a crisis communications standpoint, social media is a valuable tool for disseminating crucial information and diffusing damaging clutter.

A blog post featured on Forbes.com speaks of social media and transparency. The blog post references the authors of Tactical Transparency and the measurement criteria they have come up with, that I would like to state and discuss:

microsoft-bill-gates-twitter

Bill Gates, CEO & Founder of Microsoft.

“—Leadership: The leaders of transparent companies are accessible and are straightforward when talking with members of key audiences.”

When navigating through twitter, for example, you will find many CEOs, Editors in Chief and organization presidents have a Twitter handle that directly links them to their organization. Stakeholders and the general public are far more likely to find information credible when it comes from a source that has a higher authority within a company.

“—Values: Ethical behavior, fair treatment, and other values are on full display in transparent companies.”

Many companies take pride in having highly ethical behavior. By conveying the message of ethics and values through their communications mediums, give added value to customers. Starbucks, for example, is always putting on display to the public, new initiatives regarding environmental and social responsibility. If your organization is engaging in obvious unethical behavior, think twice before opening the flood gates of social media.

“—Culture: How a company does things is more important today than what it does. The way things are done is not a secret in transparent companies.”

Customer Q&A from McDonalds "Our Food, Your Questions" Campaign

Customer Q&A from McDonalds “Our Food, Your Questions” Campaign

 

As our culture begins to evolve, so have peoples value and awareness in social responsibility. For example, McDonald’s has produced an interesting campaign on their website, giving people an interactive and bare-all look into how their food is produced from start to finish. Visitors on the McDonalds website have the opportunity to post inquiries on the practices and procedures about anything from ingredients to horrible urban legend we’ve heard about the company and its food.

“—Business strategy: Of particular importance to the investment community but also of interest to other audiences, a company’s strategy is a key basis for investment decisions relating to increasing transparency.”

Potential shareholders and stakeholder no longer have to just rely on financial statements, the morning paper or TV to influence their business decisions. Today, people can receive new information in an instant via social media and the net. Organizations must be aware of what is being said about their day-to-day business on all the different mediums, including social networking.

“—Employees: Employees of transparent companies are accessible, can reinforce the public view of the company, and are always able to help people where appropriate.”

I believe this measurement is valuable. However, posts to any sort of social media outlet or communication of any type should be done so carefully. Employee need to be highly aware of what they may divulge about the company, what is proprietary information and what is simply not their place to comment about.

“—Results: Transparent companies are clear about the results of all business practices, both good and bad. Successes, failures, problems, and victories all are communicated to all stakeholders.”

As I stated above, organizations that engage in social media must be prepared to speak about their company, the good, the bad and the ugly. If a company is able to strategically and quickly tend to any crisis or negative communication, then they are able to limit the damage.

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