Transparency is communication

My business is communication, which means both content and delivery are of concern to me. Part of my work involves understanding the different technologies used to convey information, because the choice is important to my clients. The medium influences the style and tone of their messages.

Nine years ago, I held an assignment with a police agency that permitted me to successfully implement new forms of internal communication to cut through layers of bureaucracy. Modes of publication evolve, but the argument in favor of accurate, direct, and timely communication is still valid.

In any organization, administrators can encounter a resentful workforce on one side and a demanding public on the other. Left to draw their own conclusions about the rationale for new business policies, personnel allocation, and budget priorities, people who are not in positions of power naturally tend to become suspicious and adversarial. Even when official explanations are provided, the truth is often distorted as it travels from one person to another and through different media. Human beings inevitably filter information as they pass it along.

Executives today face increasing demands to be more open about their businesses and the organizations they run. For those accustomed to having staff who handle requests for information and respond on their behalf, the thought of intentionally revealing details of the day-to-day work process seems counterintuitive. However, the articulate businessperson who uses transparency to avoid misunderstanding is gaining popularity and credibility among clients, customers, business associates, investors, employees, and community members. Clive Thompson explains how some maverick business communicators operate in his March 2007 Wired article, “The See-Through CEO.”

For a top administrator, part of the solution can be to adopt a clear voice heard well beyond the walls of a conference room. At relatively little expense, business owners and government officials can use channels of information that were inaccessible or cost-prohibitive until very recently. Advances in interactive technology can reduce isolation, help lower expenses, encourage business networking, and allow communities to flourish.

2 Replies to “Transparency is communication”

  1. I am a particular fan of Jonathan Schwartz’s approach to this. Reading his blog actually makes me feel some sense of connecton to his company, and makes me want to “root for them” in the way one might for a sports team. It seems a strange thing, but perhaps it could be proof that authentic communication can create bonds in unlikely places.

  2. Thanks for your remarks, Dan. Oddly enough, Mark Glaser’s latest MediaShift blogpost just provoked a comment from me about transparency. I think it’s good that people are moving back toward more honest and open relationships with their business associates. Isn’t self-revelation a good practice among friends and acquaintances as well? Hidden motives seem to cause a lot more grief than openness. (It’s not that simple, I realize.)

    You mention that you enjoy reading Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s blog, which Randall Stross mentioned a year ago in his New York Times article “All the Internet’s a stage. Why don’t CEOs use it?” Bloggers in the technology sector had a big head start, but it also takes a special talent to make product development sound interesting to the average reader. Articulate corporate bloggers like Schwartz include:

    Raymond Chen at Microsoft

    John Dowdell at Adobe

    Scott Guthrie at Microsoft

    The Official Google Blog

    Robert Scoble (formerly of Microsoft) at PodTech.net

    And then there are my brand new favorites, Matthew and Aron at startup Spotstory, who created a.placebetween.us.

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