We’re only halfway through 2020, but the year has already ushered in a once-in-a-century pandemic and a world-altering movement to dismantle systemic racism.
So what do the rapid changes of 2020 mean for your organization? For many, it should mean refocusing on the importance of being open and transparent.
When COVID-19 first began impacting businesses, company leaders had to make a variety of decisions behind the scenes. How would they plan for the pandemic? What was their business able to withstand? Would they be applying for government assistance programs?
The conversation around the Black Lives Matter movement and systemic racism created even more questions. Should businesses address these movements? Should corporate leaders share their own beliefs?
For every business and every leader, the answers to those questions are different. But for my team at MediaSource, transparency has been the best policy.
Here are some of the ways transparency plays a major role, whether you’re a PR or marketing organization, a major conglomerate or a community business:
Transparency within your team
From the first week of the lockdowns, I wanted to be sure that my employees knew that the situation was fluid, that we would be assessing things as we went and that their jobs were safe.
Not every organization has this kind of flexibility, but I felt it was important to share details about the business decisions being made so that my team had the important information that affected them. And in a time of great uncertainty, it was an important factor in bringing our group together.
That extended to my own personal life when I became part of the story. In late March, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I immediately told my leadership team and informed my staff, letting everyone know how I would be running the company and the things that would and would not be changing. Thankfully, my symptoms were minor and I recovered quickly.
This need for transparency presented itself again in June, when Black Lives Matter protests began heating up and the conversation about systemic racism was brought back to the forefront.
Along with other business leaders in Columbus, I signed a letter to Columbus City Council calling for racism to be declared a public health crisis, and communicated with my team the importance of working to improve this systemic problem both inside and outside our own offices.
In these times of uncertainty, it’s been valuable for my team to know where I stand and how our organization has been dealing with these major issues.
Transparency in your public presence
In 2020, the general public wants to know where organizations stand on these important matters just like employees do. And for many, transparency isn’t just about sharing your company’s views on social issues.
For MediaSource, this wasn’t much of a change. Between writing for sites like PRsay, our company’s own blog and our social media channels, our messaging has always been public and our company’s values aren’t a secret.
But for many organizations, speaking out on issues and showing transparency in values is relatively new. Even communications-based organizations like social media giants Facebook and Twitter are grappling with issues around transparency.
Community is more important than ever, which makes it crucial for every organization to understand their community. For MediaSource, that meant sharing our statements and doing what we can. For other companies, it may mean large-scale changes to battle systemic racism, public statements on issues of social justice or requiring face coverings.
The key in all of those things, however, is to be transparent. Explaining to the public why your business is doing the things it’s doing can be the difference between a well-received message and the reputation that you’re hiding in an important moment.
Transparency in marketing and public relations
One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from the pandemic has been the importance of being open and transparent with your clients in the marketing and PR world.
When COVID-19 hit, it was tempting to maintain a “business as usual” approach. Sure, the world may be changing before our eyes, but we should strive to act as if nothing has changed for our clients. Right?
Instead, what we found is that our clients — and everyone else we’ve interacted with — value that transparency just as much as your team and the general public. If you have a major project about to launch in a media environment that doesn’t fit your goals or signal that you’ll be well-received, then talk to your clients about the pros and cons of rescheduling.
At MediaSource, we took this a step further. Each week, we produced an update titled “Navigating the Changing Media Climate” to keep our clients and partners in the loop. Taking advantage of our team’s expertise in news, social media and more, we were able to give clients a great look at not only the media environment itself, but also how we arrived at our conclusions and the ways we were proactively tackling the week’s issues.
Steps like this may not be available in every environment, and might not even be necessary when COVID-19 subsides. But the bigger lesson is that the organizations you align yourself with will value your transparency and sharing the behind-the-scenes details can help improve trust and showcase the hard work your team is doing.
Lisa Arledge Powell is president of MediaSource, an award-winning communications agency that specializes in video production, public relations, social media and strategic insights, constantly securing national exposure for major brands. Connect with Lisa on Twitter: @LisaArledge.
Art credit: lilly ma