Transparency – The Truth Matters

Posted: April 28, 2013 in Transparency
Tags: ,

Transparency has always been important in the news media industry. Simple things like reporting the truth, properly sourcing a figure or quote, including a byline, reporting a story from all angles, clearly differentiating advertorial (where a story is developed in conjunction with an advertiser) from editorial, to name a few. All of these elements strengthen a news outlet’s journalistic integrity.

Mark Smiciklas states the value of transparency in social media in his blog post on Social Media Explorer.

“Stakeholders are beginning to expect open access to relevant content and the ability to participate in dialogue that will help them satisfy their information needs. All this for the purpose of building trust in a product, services or organization”.

Earlier this week, I witnessed transparency in social media first-hand with my employer, Pacific Newspaper Group, the publisher of The Vancouver Sun/The Province. An internal letter was sent to all employees from the President and Publisher. It was direct, informative, and did not contain good news. It spoke of how the company must make drastic cuts to its costs and number of employees if the company was to survive the new digital age that has changed the traditional print news industry. An employee buyout plan was in the works with potential layoffs to follow.

The company’s next steps showed how it took this opportunity to be fully transparent. Instead of hiding this information and keeping it as internal as possible, it was posted as a news story on The Vancouver Sun and The Province websites, where readers could share the story within their social media networks.

Pacific Newspaper Group’s actions matched some of the points recommended by Smiciklas in his blog post, where social media transparency should:

  • Tell the truth. Practice honest communication and marketing.
  • Become an info hub. Give audiences the information they need to help their decision making with respect to interacting with you or buying your product or service.
  • Share your business values. Help your audiences understand what you stand for.

In telling the truth, the Publisher showed integrity and the reality that the industry has changed, prompting a need to right-size the company in order for it to succeed.

The Vancouver Sun/The Province became an info hub of this news. It is better to hear it first-hand from the source rather than from the competitors (who were undoubtedly on this story in a heartbeat).

The Vancouver Sun/The Province showed its business values by assuring advertisers and readers that the quality of the products remains strong, and measures are being taken to ensure the survival of the products.

Although transparency is important in social media, there are appropriate limits to that transparency. In this case, the company’s exact financial numbers were not disclosed. The number of employees the company wants to take the buyout was not disclosed, either.  This would have been more information than was necessary to divulge to the public, and would have created a competitive disadvantage to the company.

In the end, the news itself was not positive, but the way it was disseminated to the public was appropriate.

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Comments
  1. ~ says:

    Hi Julia,
    We both got that letter, hey? I don’t think you even have the choice to hide bad corporate news if you are in the media. It looks terrible and other media outlets will ridicule you. So really, they had no choice. It’s got to be tough to open your company up to so much public scrutiny, but it comes with the territory.
    Also, I see we both quoted the same author in our blogs this week! Guess the Internet isn’t always as vast as it seems.
    Cheers,
    Elaine

    • jyuen2013 says:

      You’re probably right – in this industry, you can’t hide. Still, give the company credit for reporting the story with the full facts, and not hiding or putting a spin on any details.

  2. jWhite says:

    Wow – great example and so close to home. This type of situation is very difficult and can be made so much worse by rumors and hearsay. For the staff and the readers, it sounds like the right move. I’m sure the company wants to be the one delivering the message to its employees, not workplace gossip or outside news sources. Good luck!

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