Privacy 2.0: Why It Pays To Be Transparent

The National Security Agency (NSA) is reeling after one of the largest security leaks in U.S. history. The reason? Revelations of a warrantless surveillance program. Well, that and former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who leaked the news to The Guardian and The Washington Post last week.

But whether it’s Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, leaked military and diplomatic information at the Pentagon or news of a deliberate and systematic internal policy of deleting emails at Queen’s Park (see Premier Mom vs. Premier Dad), the lesson is the same: Today, more than ever, the level to which we exhibit transparency with our clients, customers and stakeholders can make or break our reputation.

Here is a checklist for how to promote transparency and build trust between you, your organization and your stakeholders:

Sometimes the right thing and the hardest thing are the same thing. The truth hurts, but the public trusts truth-sayers who take responsibility for their actions. The Maple Leaf Listeriosis scandal is a precedent-setting case in point.  Acknowledging missteps paves the way to a stronger, more relatable customer and stakeholder experience.

Get to know your people and let your people get to know you. Rome wasn’t built in a day; neither is a brand. The lines between business and personal life are blurring as we increasingly embrace online interaction alongside business transactions. Connect openly and share plans, goals and priorities, and feel confident discussing challenges and barriers. If you do, overtime, customers will repay you with their attention.

Beware the email. Ensure your organization can stand behind each piece of material it writes, sends, and receives with confidence and composure. As the saying goes: “If you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of the newspaper, then don’t put it in an email.”

There is no try. The NSA is now claiming to be trying to be transparent. It’s true that some organizations are, by nature, covert. But we decide to be candid with our customers and stakeholders or we don’t.  Privacy and communication technology are increasingly raising crises to that cruelest of courts called public opinion. So get ahead of issues before they boil to the surface. Don’t try, do!

Our attitudes towards privacy rules and transparency obligations are changing. As Hal Norby put it: “Sacrificing anonymity may be the next generation’s price for keeping precious liberty.” Ditto for building trust between you and your stakeholders.