Rebranding Transparency

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, transparency is defined as (1) : having the property of transmitting light without appreciable scattering so that bodies lying beyond are seen clearly or  (2) : free from pretense or deceit.

Transparency.  The words sounds good.  The concept sounds nice.  As a consumer, I have access to a company’s business, their strategies, financials, and intentions instantly.  Transparency is all about full-disclosure, being open, and honest in everything we do as a business and personally both good and bad.  While I encourage people and businesses to be real, engaged, and interested providing their audiences with conversations, information, and content, no one can provide 100% transparency and full-disclosure.

It just can’t happen.

Because companies who are transparent provide full-disclosure telling me as a consumer, employee, or world citizen like it is.  But the real-world isn’t like that.  Imagine BP taking full responsibility for the oil spill and fully disclosing their plan or lack of one from the beginning.  How would this effect their marketing campaign, their profit margins, or consumer opinions?  Public relations crisis management would cease to exist.   Or personally, you disclosing your financial problems, failed marriage, drug problem, or family income all in the name of personal transparency.

Are you or your business transparent or is it something else?

What I’m talking about is the Transparency Myth.  The concept of transparency is a word that makes executives and consumers sleep better at night but the fact is that as humans we don’t want transparency.  Wives in reality do not want their husbands to tell them that they really do look fat in that dress.

Because a company who is transparent will openly admit to treating me like I’m a dollar figure on their income statement.  And as a employee, I’m nothing more than a sales figure or productivity rating.  I’m here to tell you that the concept of full transparency cannot happen.  Full transparency doesn’t work in marketing and it certainly doesn’t work with your employees.  Because we all know that honesty is not always the best policy in business.  Because if we truly believed in transparency, we’d tell job seekers more than the standard, “You weren’t the best fit for the position.”  We’d tell them, “We like the other guy better,” or “My boss is a jerk and he decided to cut my budget and I can’t fill the position.”

I’m in favor of a new concept I call Controlled Transparency.  You manage your brand, control your content, and monitor your company’s message both internally and externally.  As a business or person, you provide a controlled message, responding when needed, and providing them nuggets of information without overloading your audience.  A successful controlled transparency model involves engagement, interest, a message that is strategically planned free of dishonesty, pretense, or deceit.

So keep that engagement flowing and work to create a controlled and transparent dialogue that satisfies our need to feel open and honest keeping the consumers, candidates, or clients flowing with controlled transparency.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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