The ethic of transparency needs to be adopted by those companies who wish to flourish in the social media age. There is a need to hand over control through openness and information ; and to prosper companies should be open in terms of listening and involving their constituents in all their key processes as far as they can. Transparency will build a relationship of trust with your stakeholders and open up new opportunities.
Jeff Jarvis, named as one of the 100 worldwide media leaders by the World Economic Forum at Davos, who blogs at www.buzzmachine.com, argues that he does not believe that PR agencies are equipped for the social media age as they are not likely to be transparent.
‘PR people are trying to use the tools of web 2.0, Google, search, and social media to update their practices…..They have also been burned,’ writes Jarvis in his book, ‘. Jarvis adds that PR advisers should try to convince clients that it is in their interest to be transparent and honest as obfuscations and lies can be exposed so easily online. ‘We expect companies to have sites, to share information, to be factual if not fully transparent. Openness is the best PR you can have. Still, because they only advise, PR people aren’t often in the position to change how a company is managed,’ writes Jarvis.
I am sure there are plenty of PR agencies who will want to tell Jarvis where he is wrong, especially as he accuses them of joining ‘in any new digital fad that comes round the corner’ to educate their clients about them. However Jarvis makes some important points about the ways in which leading companies have to engage with the social networking culture: you need to speak with a human voice as if you were speaking face-to-face and be honest when admitting your mistakes and when you are disagreeing with the public. He also critises PR agencies for using social media tools to simply update traditional PR stunts.
A lot of important and well-known organisations have seen their reputations badly bruised through social media – some have been ravaged . More will follow. As social media becomes increasingly more influential and pervasive, it surely will not be long before more CEOs, marketing directors and directors of corporate communications recognise that they require the best specialists rather than a one-size fits all approach to their company communications.