Transparency and Authenticity: Beware the Business Buzzwords if You’re Lacking Commitment

By August 27, 2012Communications

I majored in English with a concentration in Writing in college. I’ve taken dozens of writing courses, in school and out. A frequent piece of advice from writing teachers is to “show, not tell.”

One word that keeps repeating on corporate websites, in core values, in missions and credos is “transparency.” It worries me, a bit, that we’ve come to a place, culturally where we, as businesses have to announce our transparency to the universe. “We don’t lie!” we think we have to say, “we share all our information openly!” or “we hold ourselves accountable for our actions!”

Most of the time, sadly, transparency is something corporations aspire to — they want to be very open, but it doesn’t always make good business sense to share everything, all the time.

What I think companies are striving toward, truly, is something a bit less unwieldy: authenticity.

Much like individuals struggling with the balance between private and personal, I think companies battle the same war. I often speak about the difference between being personal as a professional, particularly in online interaction, without ever sharing what’s private. I think companies have the right to have information that’s private as well. But it has certainly been demonstrated that companies that respond with authenticity and human empathy and consideration form stronger bonds with customers and, all in all, are more successful.

When writing about your company think about the differences; are you really transparent? Are you willing to make that commitment? Or is what you are, really, authentic?