A world with multiple lenses demands better transparency

Throwing transparency into a crisis recovery plan is as necessary for a manager as throwing the 18-yard out is for an aspiring NFL quarterback. Ya gotta have it.

You especially need it today, with so many tools watching, you cannot hide. A dashboard cam videos a DWI; security cameras video the perp walking into the police station; smartphones video a casino bar fight; forensics retrieves emails and texts; posted pictures stay posted seemingly forever; voicemails, GPS, credit cards, Facebook, Twitter, EZ-Pass, many apps and searches all track and time stamp what you’re doing, where and sometimes why.

Have you considered the deeper ramifications of the IBM commercial with the police officer, backed by data mining, waiting for the crook to arrive outside the convenience store he planned to rob?

Dorie Clark [@dorieclark] writing a Harvard Business Review blog extols the benefits of transparent leadership.

She doesn’t address the applicability to a crisis, but one follows the other. If your style is transparent, you’ll more likely act accordingly in crisis as in calm.


She provides anecdotal evidence of how a transparent leader builds a bank account of good will that helps her/him even when something goes wrong.

Transparency is brand insurance. Paul Levy was the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston, one of the nation’s best. In 2006, he launched a blog, then called “Running a Hospital,” which took the bold step of putting his unvarnished thoughts into the public realm, sans PR gloss.

He drew accolades for his openness (posting the hospital’s infection rates) and sharing personal touches, such as his passion for coaching youth soccer. Over years of dedicated blogging — with literally thousands of posts — he built up a reservoir of goodwill. … And it turned out he’d need it. The following year, Levy admitted to “lapses of judgment in a personal relationship” involving a female former employee. He kept his job but had to pony up a $50,000 fine; he resigned half a year later. It was an ignominious end to a respected nine-year tenure — but thanks to his blog (where he posted an apology), the blow was softened considerably. Today, he continues to weigh in on healthcare using the very same blog – albeit with a new, self-deprecating title: “Not Running a Hospital.”

Transparency didn’t save Paul Levy from making a thoughtless mistake that negatively impacted his career. But it did earn him a degree of understanding and a continuing platform to opine about his field and stay in the mix. 

People hate lies and the feeling they aren’t hearing the full story. Transparency builds trust. Committing to it might often include embarrassing revelations or document sub-par performance. But that’s a small price for greater value.

What used to be called ” ‘fessing up,” is a form of transparency. But whatever form transparency takes, it must be integral to successful crisis management.


About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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