Monday, February 14, 2011

Should PR have its own transparency? New trends and options

I just heard a speaker talk about dealing with a major emergency, during which her company didn't make announcements or take press calls--an approach that fell flat with her audience of communicators, who work in an increasingly transparent world. Communicators today are being called on to share even more of what's been behind the scenes in our work. Are you ready? Here are policy shifts and approaches you may want to consider to boost transparency.

Would you share your communications plans?

This goes against decades of tradition, and perhaps your common sense, but Shel Holtz is among those asking Has the time come for PR professionals to disclose client plans? That means sharing your strategies, which audiences you're targeting and even your key messages. If that sounds far-fetched, consider this as you would any other potentially controversial item: You'll look better if you put it out there, compared to waiting for it to be leaked. Some organizations are already taking this step: In USDA's recent release of the new food pyramid eating guidelines, talking points and key messages were published alongside other press materials. That, in turn, allowed a noted nutritionist to note that the talking points--but not the report itself--reminded consumers to "enjoy your food." So remember: transparency demands consistency.

More Transparent Media Relations Policies

More transparent embargo policies were on the 2011 wish list of reporter Ivan Oransky, who writes the Embargo Watch blog. Note that he points out that self-interest isn't a bad thing--unless you don't disclose it among your reasons. He has draft language he'd like to see included at the link, and notes that "journalists need to look in the mirror just as much as journals do" on this issue (Of course, if you're going to publish your media relations policies, it's also good if you follow them. People are watching...)

What's Next in Transparency: Trends to Watch

Calls for transparency are coming from all sides. Here's a roundup of recently trending topics in transparency that might prompt you to change your publishing policies:
  • Unlock those PDFs urges this blog post, noting that when you make it impossible to search, clip or print a PDF, you're limiting your readership to on-screen viewing only. No way that one's going viral.
  • Sharing live video coverage of your company and publishing your business practices are two transparency moves that are becoming the norm for corporations. Check this list of good examples from Edelman PR.
  • Tell your potential partners how you want to be pitched -- not reporters per se, but suppliers, cosponsors, fundraisers, you name it.
  • Open APIs for developers. From the post, "API or application programming interface, part of a software program that makes it easy for other programs to make use of a piece of its functionality or content." Making them openly available lets developers expand and build on your brand. If you're creating a new platform, consider this.
  • Don't think like a portal: Make that video available was the message to the Columbus Dispatch, which removed the video of the "homeless man with the golden voice" from YouTube and put the video on its homepage. And while you're at it, make sure that video's shareable.

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