Consumer access to information has placed the discussion of corporate transparency clearly before our eyes. This debate is about a company’s ability to be as forthcoming about their brand as possible, in order to gain their customers’ trust. An increasing number of companies are adopting a ‘full truth’ method for a few reasons.
According to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, “68% of the respondents surveyed considered it important for brands to communicate openly and transparently about how their products are sourced and made.”
In an effort to increase their public persona, several corporations have made efforts improve their relationship with their customers. Patagonia, a popular outdoor apparel and equipment brand shows how it provides transparency for their customers.
Patagonia provides its customers with its Footprint chronicles. This feature allows customers to track the environmental impact of each item sold by Patagonia. The brand offers interviews, PowerPoints, and more, which details the people and history behind the products. For those who are consumers of the brand and advocates for the earth, this feature allows them to be conscious about what affect their purchase will have on the planet. However, this is just one such brand going the distance to provide as much information about the product to the people who consume them. Other brands such as Chipotle and BMW also show a level of transparency with their customers.
“How much information is too much information? At which point is transparency no longer a viable trait?”
How do you differentiate between transparent communications and tossing out a ‘wall of data’ to justify the request for openness? At what point do you defend your ‘corporate life experiences’ to justify the cost of proactive communication? Every person and corporation have a base of life experiences from which each has grown and learned.
If we were to expose all of our past ‘learning steps’ it could be easily argued that no one may find any one person or corporation attractive. Where do you draw the line between protecting critical competitive data and damage control?
With that said, how we communicate as we move forward is critical. This is an ethical question that every person and corporation must address as move forward. How will they communicate with others? It’s a huge “grey zone” with no defined answers.
Several large corporations are making the shift to transparency. As is so often found in communications, differing perspectives may help to provide a broader insight. Articles from Inc. and Forbes provide an interesting perspective that should be explored.
At the end of the day, how you address this quandary may be defined by a balance you discover between objectives. How do you open your business to your consumer, yet protect the company secrets and interests? Where and how do you draw the line?
Forbes writer, Daniel Newman put it this way “Your consumers will find this honesty so much more appealing than the smokescreen you try to hang over your shortcoming. They will not flinch from giving exactly what you are looking for: their trust and loyalty.”