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, controlled transparency.

Photo Credit Ideal Gadget.

Hat tip to William Tincup.

Views: 111

Comment by Jessica Miller-Merrell on June 9, 2010 at 3:49pm
Maren, I do think that most marketing people think about us as more than just a dollar figure. Facebook has made me rethink my rosy picture some. On Facebook we are essentially a consumer list that they provide interested companies with up to the minute products, conversations, and topics that have our attention. While I don't mind being a consumer list, I would appreciate a little conversation, appreciation, and openness from companies, people, and business.

Thanks for the comment!

Comment by Daniel Jolly on February 7, 2011 at 12:28am
So controlled Transparency is being honest about the things you can't be completely transparent about. I work at Transparency IT and we have tried extremely hard to be completely open. We try, where legally possible, to let people know why they didn't get a position, and even if we can't, to give them some clear feedback as to what they could do to win a similar position next time. But sometimes, complete transparency isn't possible, and being transparent about that means being transparent about how transparent we can and can't be. Why did that sentence feel a bit like one from Sir Humphrey Appleby?


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