Transparency and Synthetic Transparency

Transparency is an issue I have tackled on my blog, and then questioned on others. For me, it is pretty simple. We are communicators. As communicators who blog and are counseling clients to blog, we need to lead by example.

That does not mean by just having an About page that says who your clients are, instead of disclosing in the post, that you are excused.

That does not mean posting about clients and projects without noting they are clients and projects.

That does not mean you can take the line that "well, if they click through, the reader will see I'm quoted in the article."

That does not mean you even need to link to articles, because that is just whoredom.

That isn't real transparency; it is a 'polyester' ... tacky and out-dated.

What brings this on? Two great posts from Northeastern University's Advanced Organizational Communication course. The first was on Synthetic Transparency, and the second was responding to issues raised by the first post. Yes, this issue has been written on quite a bit out there.

But, kudos to the professor for pointing out that the emperor sometimes is naked.

There's a simple answer that we seem to forget. If we are counseling, we need to be 100 percent transparent, above reproach. We cannot let it slide, but be honest about what we write about. If we are not honest, can we expect our clients to be truly transparent? No, and we have no one to blame but the profession and ourselves.


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  1. I understand your stance on wanting to be transparent, and teaching others the importance of dealing honestly with clients. In defense of those in our field, it is hard to convince others to take that noble road... Mormons may have more luck in recruiting members to their way of life.

    There are problems that stand in the way of transparency. In our classes, we learn that PR must go valiantly up against CEOs and HR, and constantly butt heads with the legal department about what and when to let others in on a situation.

    It takes a brave soul to stand up against someone in a seat of power, or a group of organizational peers who have another idea. It might be unrealistic to think that every PR person will have their way adopted or quit. Even though I just have a measley part-time job, it would take a lot for me to quit because I have bills to pay and a dog to support.

    All of the influences aside, we do need to be the ones shouting HONESTY and TRANSPARENCY...who else will? We get a bad reputation for spin, and if we can put more weight on directing clients/organizations to be forthright instead of shady then maybe we can even change the public definition of PR.

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