The Age of Transparency

My friend John Saddington recently pointed me to research focused on “corporate character & authentic advocacy,” or in non-buzzword vernacular, “having integrity as a company.”1

Here’s a summary of the report:2

Entitled “Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy,” the report describes a new framework for how chief communications officers (CCOs) can define and activate their companies’ unique corporate character and build “advocacy at scale.” It also proposes methods for engaging individuals – whether customers, investors, employees or community members – as advocates for a set of shared beliefs and actions.

As you can tell, the study reads a bit business-y and the principles in their model aren’t necessarily new (from what I can tell), they’re just being applied to our current business climate.

One point they did make in the executive summary, however, stopped me in my tracks:

In an age of unprecedented transparency, “how we are is who we are”…

The authors of the report are exactly right: we live in an age of truly unprecedented transparency. The things your company does, the things the people at your company do, can be on display for the world to see instantaneously (many times without context).

Living in a culture of transparency can change people’s appetites for the rationale behind the mission of the companies they work for, the jobs they do and the level of communication they expect from leaders. Transparency also affects customers, who can demand more accountability, sustainability, social justice, etc.

My partners and I at The Iron Yard decided from the beginning that we would be as transparent as possible with our employees and customers and have worked hard to stay true to that commitment. Overwhelmingly, the focus of the positive feedback we get is related to transparency and authenticity—I’ve been thanked for transparent communication more than anything else.

There’s nothing quite so powerful as behavior that matches belief. In the coming years transparency will increasingly become a cost of entry and the punishment for being otherwise increasingly severe.

1. You can read John Saddington’s original post about the corporate character research on his blog.2. You can read the full report about corporate character and authentic advocacy on the Arthur W. Page Society’s website.

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Practicing the art of bringing guns to a knife fight.

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