According to the recent “Edelman 2011 Trust Barometer” transparency is at the top of the most important factors leading to trust in businesses.
Being open and upfront isn’t optional anymore: companies are increasingly expected and even required to participate in an open way with the communities they affect. Easily accessible information and social media have changed peoples’ expectations, positively pushing companies to adopt more transparent policies. A recent example of was Netflix, whose CEO, Reed Hastings, sent a letter to their users apologizing for poor communication and in same breath announcing the unnecessary renaming of their popular DVD service and price increase. Unfortunately, Netflix’s silence on its changes have already resulted in loss of about 1 million subscribers.
- Define your openness. For some businesses it will be necessary to set limits to the level of transparency, such as for legal obligations for certain industries like Pharma. This will help you set expectations for your customers and ensure consistency within your company.
- Share your ongoing efforts, not just your successes after fixing a problem. If you are looking into improving something (i.e. removing something damaging from your product), share this dialogue with your key stakeholders and consumers. Otherwise, it will be perceived as something negative, as if you’ve been trying to hide it, even if you are doing good and solving a problem. Share it outside the company with everyone who might want to weigh in, express concerns, ask questions or challenge your progress.
- Stick to it. Identify and define who you are, what you stand for, and what your core values are. Use this as your base for your transparency, and make sure that you always return to these values and stick to them. Be truthful and honest; don’t say anything that you aren’t.
It is always difficult to find the fine balance between being too protective for reasons like keeping competitive advantage (for i.e. patents), and being transparent and gaining consumers’ trust. What is your company’s position on the balance between transparency and secrecy/privacy? Or, can you rock total transparency and gain all the opportunities from being completely transparent?