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Radical Transparency: Your customers, staff, and the general public need to hear from you in a different way RIGHT NOW

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | June 26, 2020

We have many positive traits in the Midwest. The people here work hard, they are punctual, people believe in teamwork, and they typically value getting things done. One of the negative traits we sometimes experience is out ability to deal with knowledge vacuums. When we don’t know something, instead of simply saying “I don’t know” we speculate. When we speculate, sometimes people take the speculation as fact. When the misinterpreted “facts” are communicated, they become popular opinion.
Businesses and organizations feed into the knowledge vacuum when we fail to keep our staff, our advocates, and the community informed. When we don’t provide information, people just make up information to fill their narrative. When we provide honest discussion avenues, we become more transparent to our stakeholders. When we consistently push information to the public that highlights our direction, our decision making processes, our goals, and our needs, we become radically transparent.
Your business or organization can achieve radical transparency through communication methods like social media videos/posts, electronic newsletters, traditional media interactive sessions, targeted customer events that emphasize a consumer component, and specialized online meetings. The goal is to go beyond the basic reporting of what you are doing, and engage your staff and consumers with the WHY behind your actions, value propositions, potential plans, fears, and unique elements of your operations.
If you want to keep your advocates advocating, and you want the public to engage with your story, here are some elements of radical transparency you should consider implementing:

  1. Show your work- A lot of consumers think that products or services magically appear when they place an order. If they don’t understand the processes of selection, training, repair, merchandising etc., they won’t completely value what you are offering.
  2. There is a difference between frustration and griping- Showing you are human is okay. Frustrations are normal in any environment where you are dealing with other human beings. Good radical transparency efforts can engage staff and the public on ways you can improve to meet the needs of those that depend on your business. Bad radical transparency calls out specific people or instances with an emphasis on shaming instead of improvement.
  3. Share your excitement- Businesses can get excited about some things that the outside world will consider weird (in a good way). Showing the little things that brighten your day in your business engages your customers and enhances consumer loyalty.
  4. Talk through your procedures- Right now is a perfect opportunity for businesses to do a video walk through to show customers how you and your staff are keeping them safe. Comfort is going to play a HUGE role in business success, but customers cannot achieve comfort if they don’t know what steps you are taking to keep them safe.
  5. Invite people in!- All businesses have new things happen. Accountants get new information from the IRS or SBA. Restaurants get new food stuffs that they experiment with for a special menu. Retailers get packages from their suppliers. People watch “unboxings“, and you can engage your customers by inviting them in to take advantage of new changes, new inventory, or new experimental product offerings.
  6. Talk through context- Use radical transparency to contextualize how to use products or services in the short term. A LOT of people are looking for things to do, safe activities to plan, and products to purchase. Don’t just show what you sell, but have your staff talk about uses, why what you sell is important, and the deep dive specifics of your decision making.
  7. Ask questions!- Radical transparency isn’t limited to one-way communication. You can ask your audience about product preferences, hours of operation, how they feel about your new ideas, new spending portals and more! Most businesses emphasize their responsiveness to customers, but how can you be responsive if you never give your customers the opportunity to respond?
  8. Stay focused- Remember, you are still talking about your business, your staff, your consumers, and your products. Some attempts at radical transparency devolve into radical narcissism. When you have a thousand different topics you are discussing with your staff and your consuming public, you obviously aren’t focused on a key message and your consuming public can’t focus on your all-over-the-map delivery. Limit topics, keep it simple, and keep your conversations business focused.
  9. If you get asked a question from staff or customers, it could be a topic for a transparent discussion- For every question you get on a particular topic, there are several people that may want an answer to the same question but are too shy to ask. Questions from consumers or staff are a great opportunity to build content through radical transparency conversations.

We have to fight the notion that if we don’t talk about our business or organization, other people will not talk about our organization. Additionally, we have some entities that view internal topics as “nobody else’s business” while simultaneously needing business from other people. It can be uncomfortable to improve transparency because it can make you feel vulnerable. Interacting with your staff and consuming public can also empower you, improve your brand image, enhance consumer loyalty, and help your business or organization make better decisions.

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.