Public Relations 101 – Transparency in Business

Edna B. Shearer

At the end of the day, people are going to do business with people who they feel like they know and trust. While the aforementioned statement may initially seem like a no-brainer, transparency in business is one of the key determining factors for the longevity of a business–yet many still struggle how to accomplish this without saying too much.

So what is transparency in business anyway? Does business transparency mean that businesses must disclose every little detail to current and potential clients and customer? To the contrary, transparency in business is less about how much is disclosed, and more about the frequency of disclosure and the manner in which this is achieved. For instance, if a manufacturer of goods discovers that there may be a problem with the construction of one of its products, obviously the business should immediately inform consumers about the problem. It may not be necessary to tell why the problem exists or how exactly the product reach consumer hands despite quality and assurance checks, as this may induce unnecessary panic. However, it is critical that the company stay in almost constant contact with the consumer during the crisis situation so the consumer feels as though the company really cares about their safety, and not just the company’s bottom line. Depending on the magnitude of the crisis, weekly, and sometimes even daily updates may be necessary.

While the size of the company is often a determining factor in reach, various approaches can be taken to ensure that the proper information reaches consumers in a timely manner during a crisis situation. Press conferences are an option for larger companies, while similar “conferences” or announcements can be made on company Web sites or even sites such as YouTube and Twitter for smaller companies. Announcements via email, newsletters and brochures are always great ways to show consumers the lines of communication are open. Lastly, the distribution of press releases can ensure that your company’s message reaches consumers and other key stakeholders through prime media outlets.

Remember, transparency is more about frequency than full disclosure. Always be sincere and truthful, but be careful to properly construct the message you want consumers to receive-as that one press release may be your only opportunity for redemption.

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