5.16.2011

Build Trust - Be Transparent

The building of a responsible brand cannot be based on simple intuition, changing market preferences, and corporate self-promotion. To be successful, the building of a responsible brand requires systematic planning and coordinated actions, not mere advertising. Transparency is of the utmost importance, especially when building relationships, maintaining relationships, or during a crisis.

To that end, a successful brand should have a crisis management plan in place.  In my opinion, it is not the role of the CEO to Blog in order to tell the brand’s story – leave that for the communications department. However, for a brand to appear transparent, the CEO should some sort of presence online.  An effective crisis management plan clearly defines who should be speaking to the public in certain situations.  For example, this week’s lesson discussed how to avoid being the next Enron.  In the case of Enron (or to a less dramatic extent something like Google or BP), the CEO should be Blogging and talking directly to the public to maintain a favorable public opinion.  I think this is more in line with public relations strategies than direct marketing, but it should be developed as a standard operating procedure.

Let’s dive deeper.  Google constantly comes under fire for privacy issues.  It would tremendously effective if Sergy Brin or Larry Page would Blog openly to discuss Google’s privacy issues, especially when they’re making headlines.  Remember BP? They were literally silent for a very long time and it left consumers angered and confused.  What about GM and the bailout money?  While they did eventually release a fantastic commercial when Ed Whitacre took over, they, like BP, were largely silent during the hearings. The spot (seen here) is GM’s attempt at transparency. 

Included in relationship marketing are not only buyer/seller exchanges but also business partnerships, strategic alliances, and cooperative marketing networks with a consistent effort over time. Looking at it from this perspective then, a CEO could be Blogging on a regular basis – again for transparency. In my organization, the City of Wheeling, the City Manager nor the Mayor ever Blog because that’s my job. However other cities, namely Columbus, Ohio, have a strong mayoral presence online.  Columbus’s mayor has his own Facebook page and YouTube channel which he personally updates regularly.  He uses the YouTube channel (see here) to answer questions that he receives via e-mail or from the Facebook page.  I think this is a tremendous service to the taxpayers and shows that he is not only transparent, but also accessible.

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