Transparency has been a big struggle for traditional organizations. They worry not only about secrets but about negativity being posted and going viral. Social media gurus proclaim that avoiding social media will not stop the negativity, it will just ensure that it takes you longer to hear about it. Still there is fear. There’s even an email scam that preys on this fear by sending messages from one of your social media contacts warning that someone is posting vile things about you, or you’re in a scandalous video, or can that be you in that Facebook picture?. This fear stems from a lack of control. However, the days of being able to control your message are gone. You can control your press release content and branding (from a visual standpoint) but anything more than that you’re at the mercy of your customers, community members, employees and others who are commenting on and reviewing your services and offerings. While I understand your hesitation to open up, please consider these three things:
1. You have an amazing organization. Showcase it. Don’t worry about the occasional disgruntled person. (See #2 below for more on this.) You are doing amazing work. Let others know. If you don’t have an amazing organization spend some time working on improving it. Be open about the changes you’re making. You don’t have to be perfect — just human — and being human is a work-in-progress.
2. You should never fear the people who make their dissatisfaction public. Don’t worry if a member blasts you on Twitter for the less-than -satisfying lunch at your most recent event. While that comment may get a lot of views, you have an opportunity to address it and make that person feel special by valuing his or her opinion. If, on the other hand, this same dissatisfaction was voiced in the restroom among a handful of friends you might never know about it. Worse yet, if he or she never said anything about the meal but based his or her decision not to attend your next event on this dissatisfaction, you’d never know. Embrace your critics. They’re giving you an opportunity to make a change.
3. Your secrets, strategies, and covert news will get out. When I worked in political circles, we encouraged candidates to be the “teller” of their own stories, opener of their own closets. Many people stand in front of their proverbial closet of skeletons (and let’s be honest every organization has one, even if it only contains one bone), holding the door shut. When asked, what’s behind the door?, they look around. What door? It is far better to open that door with a friendly, allow me to show you, exposing your one measly secret than it is to have someone rush the door and fling it open for you and then call a crowd over to see. Or maybe you’re strong enough to hold the questioner at bay and maybe you can convince him to walk away but he’s already conjured up much worse ideas of what is behind your door than the reality.
I don’t advocate total transparency. Things like product designs and meeting locations are best unveiled at the appropriate climactic time. There are things that simply cannot be said (your attorney is nodding right now) but keep in mind that things that fall into this category are few.
Open the gates. Let people in. Show them who you are and give them a chance to like you.
Photo credit: from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory