The Power of Transparency in PR
Public Relations as a profession often gets a bad rap for being overly concerned with “spinning” a story in a positive direction for a client, while failing to consider whether the message may harm others in the process. This age-old trope of characterizing PR professionals as “spin doctors” got its start through a New York Times op-ed published during the 1984 election season. In the editorial which discusses Reagan v. Mondale, the author questions what to call the people who were helping the candidates position their political views to the country, eventually settling on “not just press agents, but spin doctors.”
Since the inception of this stereotype, the PR industry has taken strides to combat the term, the most important being emphasizing the importance of transparency. Transparency, as it pertains to PR, involves being open and fluid with the sharing of information on behalf of a client and helping businesses maintain honesty and trustworthiness. Read on to learn more about why transparency is so crucial and best practices for achieving it.
Why Transparency Matters
There are numerous reasons why transparency can go a long way in your public relations strategy. It has the power to:
- Increase brand loyalty. A survey of more than 2,000 consumers found that the majority (94%) are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency. In addition, transparency ranked at the top of a list of factors that motivate consumers to be loyal to a brand, meaning the general public values full disclosure. It’s important for organizations to go above and beyond to provide customers and stakeholders with all the information they could need in an easily accessible place to forge long-lasting relationships based on trust and mutual respect.
- Support revenue. Securing brand loyalty helps organizations drive sales. A study found that 73% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency. Investing in transparency can help boost your business financially as customers are more likely to purchase items from a company they can trust and rely on.
- Attract new talent. What better way to attract qualified talent than by being transparent about your organization and its successes, goals and processes. Employees want to work for organizations they connect with, and transparency goes a long way in building trust and positioning a company favorably in the eyes of prospective employees.
Consider these best practices for achieving and maintaining transparency:
- Own up to mistakes in a timely manner. Everybody makes mistakes, and this is especially true when it comes to large corporations. However, admitting to mistakes is a very important part of being transparent and can go a long way during a crisis. For example, when credit-reporting company Equifax was hacked in 2017, they neglected to immediately inform the public of the scale of the problem. Months later, the company revealed that the attacks compromised the credit information of over 143 million people, leading to a lengthy investigation and panic among the public. Had the company been transparent and given the media and public valuable information about the breach sooner rather than later, they may have managed to salvage their reputation or at least would have demonstrated integrity and commitment to their customers.
- Be clear about how the company operates. When consumers can see a product’s journey from inception to reality, they gain more confidence in the brand. From disclosing product ingredients to outlining business practices and process online, businesses can help consumers make more informed buying decisions just by being transparent. These days, consumers care to know about ethical manufacturing and sourcing, as well as sustainability efforts, so being clear from the get-go is essential. It helps them know that a business supports the communities in which it operates, making it easier for the consumer to support them.
- Build trust with the help of dedicated PR professionals. PR agencies often play a critical role in helping companies manage trust and communicate to key audiences. In today’s increasingly digital world, communicating a brand or organization’s message effectively over social media platforms has never been more important in establishing trust with an audience. Companies that work with PR professionals who incorporate transparency in their communications plans can remain one step ahead of the 24/7 news cycle and be prepared for the unexpected.
Transparency helps PR professionals avoid the “spin doctor” stereotype and allows companies to avoid damage control situations with the press and their customers. In an era where fake news and dishonesty among corporations runs rampant, it’s never been more important to build trust through transparency – a task that begins with an effective communications and PR strategy.
Priyanka Godbole is an Account Coordinator in Mulberry’s Chicago office who thrives on developing creative content for clients.