How being transparent is an essential PR ideal

By Jillian Mikolaizyk / March 11, 2024 / , ,

There’s a lot of talk these days about being transparent in our culture, in our connections with one another, and especially in the actions and decisions of local or regional politics and government. As a free and open society, we all understand the value of knowing what’s going on at every level of, say, a state government. This holds true to all kinds of organizations and entities, including businesses.

That’s why many get confused and are challenged when there is a reluctance by individual leaders or groups to be candid and open about issues like finances, personnel decisions, timelines or costs to a project that may impact a community or even the company.

For public relations (PR) specialists and our clients, this is a critical issue that requires thoughtful consideration before, during and even after sending out a press release or beginning a PR campaign or push.

As a business owner, it’s important to connect with the media to tell your story or use the social media world to share digital content. Doing so in an ethical and honest fashion may seem obvious, especially in the day and age we live in, but often times this idea is pushed aside. Instead we tend to limit our PR in the quest to be seen and heard.

That’s all well and good, but let’s be honest – being forthright with information, without wrapping in up in shiny paper and bows, can be a challenge. We’re excited about our story and we want others to be as well; we can’t wait to announce our new product line or expansion and do so a flashy manner; and we want to look good and feel good about what we’re doing.

But you should also want to tell your story in a honest and compelling way, and there is nothing more compelling than good information that is accurate and based on the idea of openness about you and your company.

Sure, stories are often best said in a way that makes an emotional connection but when it comes to most audiences, especially the media, you have to sometimes hold those things in check. And if you are telling a story, tell it in a truthful way. Reveal something about the new expansion, like how much it’s going to cost; share the impact a downturn in your industry is having on your staff; be open with your expertise, even be vulnerable with what your PR is trying to highlight about your company.

What is transparency?

The clinical definition of transparency is the quality of being easily seen through. Now isn’t that a phrase for the days we live in? I often think people want just the opposite; they don’t want others to catch on to what they are doing or find out more about who they really are.

For our purposes, transparency is the idea that you and your company are willing to share information necessary to help your audiences understand who you are and what you do by working through sources like the media. Then when the time comes for a PR announcement or the challenge of a crisis you may greatly improve your chances of being heard.

How is transparency relevant to PR?

As a business, you are part of a community for good and bad. Being wedded to the truth – no matter how hard it is – is a sensible thing to do. Of course, there are times when you may or may not be able to share information or talk to the media, such as legal or confidential issues.

That aside, any good press release, PR pitch or campaign that calls for sharing something with the public, requires a real willingness to be open with what information is shared and a willingness to talk directly if the media reaches out.

PR by its nature calls for building connections, maintaining relationships and enhancing your company’s position with the public as much as with any of your customers or clients. One key to good relationships is a honest connection built on mutual respect and a willingness to explain as much as the situation will allow. Hiding facts or slanting information for one’s own benefit can be hard to resist but can be a sign of weakness and unwillingness to be honest.

So bottom line, transparency is a must when talking to your audiences or seeking to partner with a media that by its nature can be skeptical. This is an important notion – there is so much information, even disinformation, around us that a healthy skepticism is often warranted. It’s okay to be skeptical of the media (who you need) even if you want their support or interest, just avoid turning that natural inclination into an wary approach when seeking to be seen or heard on television, radio or in print.

So what are the rules of real PR transparency?

Simply put your PR must be honest, open and above all about sharing real – even sometimes sensitive – information, not just engaging in some marketing or advertising effort.

If you are prepared to do that, your PR will be taken as genuine. Your audiences will see that what you say and do is accurate and reflects who you are as a leader and what your company is all about, maybe even what it stands for beyond just selling something for your own benefit.

In addition, it’s good to be willing to respond to questions, even provide further information or answers as needed. Too often, business owners want to share very limited information, especially when it comes to company finances. And yet the power of your business is built around what you do or sell and its results are most often shown by financial success and value to the community.

Of course, there’s also the need to be a good citizen of the community, to be involved, or at least concerned, about issues that impact it or your customers. No, you don’t have to take positions on the issues of the day but more and more these days companies are expected to at least understand their role when it comes to community concerns, whether it is social, environmental or even cultural.

Ultimately, like so many things is life, being upfront and honest takes courage and can even hurt sometimes, but the rewards of transparency are many for a company wanting to be seen as a valued part of a community’s fabric as well as a concerned, willing partner in values we share.

Clearly having a successful operation, one that employs people and is financially healthy, remains the goal. Still, being successful is also being transparent, letting your public relations showcase the other value you bring to