I was raised by a very prim and proper southern woman.
By age seven, I’d attended four “Charm” schools, understood the importance of handwritten Thank-you notes, and practiced a well-rehearsed “Yes ma’am”/ “No sir” on daily basis.
Throughout my cotillion years, my mother drilled the southern art of illusion in my curly head. Transparency—talking about yourself and/or airing dirty laundry—was something that prim and proper southern ladies just didn’t do.
Fast forward to the 21st-century.
I traded my buttered biscuits for business school, and studied what makes consumers tick for a living. While zero transparency may be the theme for Gone With the Wind, it’s certainly not the formula for success in today’s millennial driven marketplace.
Transparency can be a good thing.
Transparency builds trust.
Consumers patronize brand they trust.
Bottom line: Organizational transparency is KEY to engaging today’s consumers.
A question I’m routinely asked by clients taking the big leap towards peeling back the corporate curtain is, “How transparent should we be?”
After a few years of giving a canned B-school marketer answer of, “Be transparent in ways that will enhance your business image”, I decided to come up with some guidelines to assist in your quest towards enhanced consumer trust.
Here’s the line-up:
Develop Organizational Guidelines
Every industry has “hot topics”—you know, the panic button issues that are the definition of any PR person’s worst nightmare. For agriculture, current hot topics may include: antibiotic use in food animals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), industry monopolization of “Big Ag” companies.
Avoiding these industry-relevant topics breeds distrust with today’s accountability-driven consumers. Thus, developing organizational guidelines for addressing such topics in an effective, uniform manner can greatly assist in your company’s quest to not “look flakey” next time your industry is trending on Twitter. Have a plan for how to navigate (not avoid) these PR landmines.
Be a “Real” Person
Social media is a great platform in which people can get to know you, beyond the prepackaged, corporate bio. It’s important for organizational leadership to appear “real” in today’s world of instant accessibility. I advise higher profile clients to incorporate controlled elements of their personal lives in organizational feeds. Developing a strategy as to how you present your leadership as “real people” without “getting too personal” is key to a holistic, effective social approach.
My list of “Okay to post” non-professional topics include: hobbies, travel, education, and life hacks. Posting a quick pick of my feisty Arabian mare trotting through our most recent dressage test, or a snap of my exhausted frame dragging across the Turkey Trot finish line are both reflective of my two main hobbies—horseback riding and running—and include information that I’m comfortable being public knowledge.
Everyone’s comfort level is different. Make a quick list of what “not so personal” topics you are comfortable sharing vs. what needs to stay offline. When compiling my list, I try to think of what topics I routinely discuss in “chit chat”, and assess my comfort level with such information being broadcasted digitally.
Support the Brand
All your marketing efforts – on and offline – should support your organization’s brand. When assessing “how” transparent your organization should be, reflect on the many ways such revealing posting could be. As a marketing professional, it’s easy to become so accustomed to your select industry, that you forget how such standard messaging may be perceived by an “outsider”. Consider questionable, “iffy” transparency posts as stand-alone; if this was someone’s first and only exposure to your organization, what would be their takeaway.
We’ve all experienced awkward first impressions (remember junior high?).
Don’t let your organization’s branding make the same embarrassing pubescent social snafu.
Integrating transparency into your organization’s communications strategy can be key in acquiring new customers, if done right. Ensure that all transparent-geared content support the organization’s reputation, protects the privacy of those involved, and follow’s well-conceived organizational guidelines.
Becker Digital is a full-service Marketing and Public Relations Agency dedicated to empowering mission-driven organizations to reach their goals. We apply our expertise in community development, social media strategy, and public relations to connect organizational clients with today’s always-scrolling online users.