Transparency versus Full Disclosure

I’m going to be starting a show on BTR about Transparency in Business. I’ve been interested in this topic for a while as it’s easy to call for transparency from a company or individual, but hard to know where asking for said transparency borders on being invasive. It’s one thing, for instance, to let customers know on a company blog that a product has a defect and you’ll be recalling items sold. This is a great example of positive transparency, especially if it’s followed up by appropriate actions (items are recalled and people are given a refund, etc.) What you’re telling customers, employees, and shareholders by this action is that you’re more concerned with the overall customer experience and integrity of your firm than in not looking “stupid” in the marketplace. In the long run (in my opinion) having this kind of initiative produces the opposite effect for people investigating your business – it builds trust.

That said, full disclosure is not always necessary and can be harmful for a company. Disclosing certain financial information is a must in an annual report, for instance. Disclosing a personal salary of an employee would be inappropriate and likely criminal.

We’re in an intriguing era involving the nature of transparency and community online. Many folks call for openness but then pressure others into their philosophy/idea of transparency which may not be appropriate for a company or individual. I find this instance especially intriguing. What if your firm has a business partner who is involved in something inappropriate by other people’s standards? Are you required to blog about it because others know you’re partners? Maybe. Probably if it involves money. But if it’s a personal situation (versus business) you may decide not to write/talk about the situation to protect your partner’s privacy. Others might say you weren’t being transparent. I would say it depends on the situation.

I look forward to exploring this topic and welcome your insights. I’ve created a page on The NewPR/Wiki with my friend/colleague Shel Holtz if you’d like to add something there or email me directly at: johnhavens at blogtalkradio dot com.

-John C. Havens

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