Fake Transparency


Truth in Transparency We have been given power to contribute to the marketplace of ideas.  Are you using it wisely? The phrase “truth will out” can be dated back to John Milton’s Aeropagitica written in 1644.  He wrote,

Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.

In other words, information should be available to all, both that are true and false. When you have a marketplace of ideas then the truth will survive. The truth will surface. Information has become democratized. There have been several instances where companies have not told the truth.  We can forgive those who don’t know but what about the companies that do know they are lying? Companies like BP that underestimated the amount of oil leaking into the Gulf. In a New York Times article, BP downplayed the catastrophic results to a measly 5,000 barrels a day, which turned out to be four to five times that amount…Opps. The press conference and immediate press release follow these events. It’s not the mistake that matters but what you do about it. For some it’s a little too late. They have been “Black Listed”.

The Least Transparent Companies:

The Most Transparent Companies:

This isn’t a corporate Red Scare but recognizing those who use transparency. We should give thanks to those companies that allow the public to know their business practices, business decisions, and factors that go into making those business decisions. Let us remember, “truth is both arms and armor”.  Transparency can increase brand identity and create brand personality. It can even increase return of shareholder value.

Growing up in this post-media generation, we expect honesty and directness. And we respect those who speak with truth and bluntness. Companies can’t spin their way out of trouble, especially not today with the Google monster growing stronger and stronger. It will eventually get you and when it does, POOF. There goes years of trust and brand loyalty. There is a barcode for each story stored in today’s digital library, the internet. That barcode is a link. A permalink, permanently available for all of us to see. Truth is just one Google search away.

Jeff Jarvis wrote in What Would Google Do?,

“Companies shouldn’t be democracies. But neither should they be dictatorships. They should be ––but too rarely are ––meritocracies. Your challenge is to get good ideas to surface and survive from within and without and to enable customers and employees to improve your ideas and products.

Transparency is cool. Transparency is smart.  What is your favorite transparent company?

Michael Bailey, creator of future MobaTalk Conversation Studio, has put together a great checklist in warning others of how users of social media tools, such as blogs, microblogs, presence, wikis, and social networks, fake transparency and authenticity on the Web.

We all know it takes time and energy to have a transparent and authentic site. Today, most presence, miniature blogs, have easy interactive tools that allowsa  person or company to automate the process.

Here are my comments to his 10 ways to fake transparency

1. Using Twitter is great to message people and keep them updated. But like mass-texting, no one likes to receive the same general message your automated follow-bot that send a (Direct Message (DM) to new followers.

2. Publishing goals are great but they should be realistic. Having super-optimistic goals can grow annoying and tiresome for others. 

3. I despise anything that pops up on my screen. Shiny distractions like “Win an iPod” and banner ads that take away for the content turn me off. Keep it simple and clear. I’m trying to focus!

4. This is just plain wrong for a company to do. Skewing facts for people to quickly believe is just unethical. They might as well be reciting their sales pitch to you instead.  

5. I’m not an expert and I try not to sound like one. Blogging is sharing ideas and expanding information. I try to comment back to create real conversation to others. Interactivity is essential to create dialogue. 

6. Again, I not an expert and to talk to users as if they are behind-in-the-times is condescending. I personally hate to be talk down to or as if I should have known the information already. It’s a continuing learning process for people online. Remember, we are expanding information and  so get off your high-horse.

7.  Exploiting the insecurities of others is one of the worst things you can do to hind your own insecurities. It shows that you don’t have any confidence in yourself or the company.

8. Looking like the hero might work once, if you are lucky. People will figure you out faster than you think. People are watching closer now than ever online. 

9. I like it when people agree with my ideas but to ignore or block those who don’t agree is limiting the different points of views and valid argues others could be making. This is a sharing process but also a listening and responding process too.  I think everyone has learned their lesson from Dell Hell fiasco about ignoring readers. It only backfires in the long run. Check out Alex’s blog for more information.

10. Companies should use these genius suggestions if they ask for them.  To never implement others ideas, the company might as well not have a outlet out all to submit them. Dell’s IdeaStrom is a great example of a company that has used many suggestions from people outside the company.

Bill Breen’s Who Do You Love? article, written back in December of 2007, perfectly highlights the appeals and risk of authenticity. He lists four primary strands that gives a brand or person a emotional connection to viewers that truly make them real. The four stands are:

A sense of place. Authenticity comes from a place we can connect with others and does not need to be literal.

A strong point of view. When people are passionate about what they are doing, they share it to others.

Serving a larger purpose.  Naturally, people tell the truth and others believe them until shown otherwise. A brands’ primary goal is to sell. But, when they can convinces you that the companies’ profit-making is for only a by-product of a larger purpose, then it’s authentic.

Integrity. Authenticity comes to a brand that is what it says it is. When a brand’s actions and the story being told  matches up, then it’s authentic. 

And if you’re still not certain on how to spot companies faking authenticity then take the Quiz.

 

 

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February 2005, McDonald paid an ad agency, TypePad, to create a fake blog to go along with their Super Bowl ad hoax that a French Fry was shaped as Lincoln. The commercials were a two part series, one commercial at kick off show and one in the first quarter. Below is a video that has combined the two commercials together. McDonald’s began their complementary blog shortly after the commercial aired.

To see the commercials in two parts, click here to see part 1 and here to see part 2.

Because the commercial was brilliantly put together in a two part series, it double the catastrophic effect of destroying McDonald’s name.  The commercials were affective and got people to link into McDonald’s fake blog. Shel Israel blog teaches us that good blogs have passion and authority. Companies that hire ad agencies to  get bloggers to be connected to the company are not confident about their products. Faking blogs are lose-lose situation and will only catch up with the company in the long run. When a company has their name on a product or any type social media outlet, the company reputation is attributed to it. Such damaging decisions, like creating a fake blog, can a be company Waterloo. The consequences of deceiving the public throws a companies credibility and reputation right out the window. 

Now, McDonald’s has setup pretty transparent  corporate social responsibility blog that has revamped their image to the public. Their blog mishap has taught them a lesson and now states on the site, “CSR is everyone’s business, and we should communicate with that idea in mind.” Hopefully, companies can learn from them that it doesn’t pay to be fake. 

 

 

 

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Corporations, organizations, and individuals have been doing this “social media” thing for a while now. It was just destined to happen sooner or later. I’m talking about faking transparency. What’s even worse, sometimes it’s not an employee that is doing the faking. Jeremiah Owyang’s blog post, A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media, added Exxon Mobil to the list in August due to a Tweeter imposture. A “Janet” created and replying to messages on the Tweeter account for Exxon Mobil without their authorization. Here is an example of one Janet’s Tweets.

The imposture accumulated a large following on Tweeter before being caught. This unpaid fanatic showed how easy it is to “brand jack” from a successful business.  The spokesman for Exxon Mobil, Alan Jeffers, reported on the story to the Houston Chronicle article to clear up Exxon Mobil name. Alan Jeffers also admits that Exxon isn’t using any other social media outlets to communicate about its corporate operations. Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, makes it clear that Twitter has polices that support company trademarks and brands. Since then, “Janet” has turned over the rights to Exxon. 

Being laggards in the online world doesn’t cut it in today’s society. Not monitoring the Web for how a brand is being used or talked about will cost you. Shel Holtz was one of the first to recognize the copycat and believes this should be a “wake-up call” for organizations that are slow to pay attention to the social media space. For more on Holtz ideas on Exxon incident, click here.