Functioning in today’s brave new world of media requires a sense of transparency unlike ever before. Just about anything and everything can be found on the Internet – from personal emails to state secrets.
There is an overwhelming demand for openness from the public because openness builds trust.
WIRED Magazine ran an article called “The See-Through CEO” in which Clive Thompson wrote about this sense of “radical transparency” in business. He warns, “…trying to hide something illicit–trying to hide anything, really– is an unwise gamble.”
However, I think we all can agree that the concept of transparency requires balance. As Patricia Swann puts it in Cases in Public Relations Management, “Transparency does not mean giving away the secret formula for Classic Coke, but it does mean making sure day-to-day operations meet regulations and are in line with generally accepted business practices.” It takes “a two-way communication model” to keep lines of communication open and to cultivate relationships of mutual respect and assurance.
We need to speak and write as if always “on the record” and in a permanent way. In the senior living and healthcare industries, people are entrusting the care of their loved one to a stranger–it is our job to show the public why the senior living community we represent is the best place (for often one’s mom or dad) to be. We must convey an accessible and comfortable line of open communication on behalf of the residence to ensure peace of mind for relatives.
Mark Hannah of MediaShift discusses the need to incorporate transparency as a PR principle, not just a PR tactic. He believes that in the future, the new era of citizen journalism will require a new sense of transparency where organizations will not be able to say, write or even do anything they wouldn’t want discovered.
Hannah says, “The organizations that will be truly successful in this environment are those that have integrated transparency as part of their organizational culture and not just their communications strategy.”
While Hannah describes this environment as futuristic, many would argue that that time is already here. The more we, as professional communicators, can embrace this sense of transparency and control how and what that should look like, the more our senior living residences will thrive in the public’s eyes.