So many businesses are guarded. They protect their identities with fierce religiosity. But is this really the best approach? If you study many of today’s rising brands – the ones that will be market leaders in the decades to come – you’ll find that they’re emphasizing transparency above all else.
Why Transparency is So Crucial
For many years, companies could get away with shady practices and tight lips. Business leaders encouraged privacy and exclusivity. Companies kept things close to the vest and never divulged valuable information or internal details that could be used against them.
But the tides have changed and there’s a new way of doing business. Though trade secrets are still kept locked away in password-encrypted digital vaults, everything else is up for discussion. Transparency is the order of the day.
Transparency looks different for every business, but it’s basically the act of publicly sharing information about the company – information that was previously kept secret. Common elements include any or all of the following:
- Growth and performance
- Internal processes
- Frameworks and templates
- Hiring practices
- Diversity and inclusion data
Transparency is something that millennials are especially fond of and it’s this demographic who has pushed for changes in the way businesses interact with the public. Companies that respond accordingly enjoy numbers benefits. But most of all, they enjoy a higher degree of trust with customers and business partners.
There’s also the benefit of strengthening the internal culture at a company and developing employees to become better, more talented people who add maximum value to the organization.
Buffer is a great example of this. They invest heavily in transparency, even though the immediate benefits aren’t always juicy.
“The reason we make things transparent is we think it’s the right thing to do.There’s no benefit, we don’t do it to get press. We don’t do it to get people to join our company, to sign up for Buffer. We don’t do it for anything,” writes Kevan Lee, VP of Marketing at Buffer. “We just think the best possible way we can develop ourselves as people is by making the company as transparent as possible.”
That statement perfectly sums up the push for greater transparency. It doesn’t always feel great, but it’s the right thing to do. And whether you feel it in the moment or not, you’re building trust that will benefit your business for years to come.
Practical Ways to Make Your Business More Transparent
Okay, so transparency = good. Now how do you follow through?
Well, we have a few extremely practical ideas you can use to improve both your internal company culture and your external connection with customers via marketing and branding. Take a look:
- Get Clear on Who You Are
You can’t be transparent if you don’t first know who you are. Core values, mission statements, purpose-driven storytelling – whatever you want to call it – needs to be hashed out in detail.
Once you get clear on who you are, don’t be shy about sharing your story.
A company story can be shared via any number of mediums or platforms, but video is arguably the best. It allows people to put faces to names. It humanizes your brand, if you will.
BTOD.com does a fantastic job of this. Check out this video which explains who they are and why they’re different. There are plenty of takeaways that you can use to make a similar video for your own business.
- Do Everything With the Expectation of Publicity
Everything you do internally should be done with the expectation that it’ll be shared publicly. (This doesn’t mean you have to share it publicly. It just means you shouldn’t be surprised if it is.) When you act in this manner, you have nothing to hide. As a result, transparency becomes easy and frictionless.
- Keep Employees in the Loop
Traditionally, there’s been a thick veil between the executive leadership team and the rest of the employees in a company. But if you want total transparency, that curtain must be ripped down to allow for a free flow of information. This is something Mike Kappel, CEO of Patriot Software advocates for (and practices).
“Rather than withhold information from my employees, I regularly keep them up to date with my business’s latest news,” Kappel writes for Forbes. “I write an article that lays everything out on the table in our monthly internal newsletter called The Grapevine. Instead of my employees hearing things through the grapevine, they can read it directly from me in The Grapevine.”
Whether it’s an internal newsletter, casual conversations, or company-wide meetings, keeping employees in the loop goes a long way towards cultivating a culture of total transparency.
Invest in the Future
The natural tendency for businesses is to hold everything close to the vest and to avoid giving the competition anything to steal or use against you. But that’s no way to run a business. It’s not always easy to be transparent, but your investment in openness and authenticity will yield dividends in the months and years to come. Stick with it and you will be rewarded.