Throughout my career as a communications professional, I have steadfastly encouraged my clients – whether internal or external – to get the facts out. One of my good friends has always maintained that being truthful is not the same as going to confession. And of course, those in the legal profession will often want to withhold information until the facts are able to come out in a court of law.
The problem is that facts and “truth” are really a matter of perception and perspective. That’s why in our language we have idioms like “one man’s garbage is another man’s gold.” Consider witnesses to a car accident or a crime – each will have seen the exact same events but often (just ask the police) their recollection of the events will have conflicting information about what happened. No one is lying, they just perceived things differently.
I have never liked the term “spin doctor”. In fact, I find it offensive, especially when it is applied to me and my professional colleagues. I believe the majority of us try to share information with the various publics we have to provide perspective on a given set of facts. Practitioners often advise their clients to be transparent meaning, get the information out and deal with any issues that may arise to help mitigate reputational damage.
In this age of TMI – too much information – being shared daily through social and other media it seems that going on the offensive and sharing the information – even if it doesn’t put a company in the best light – might take the wind out of the sails of detractors.
Used with sincerity and honesty, the strategy may even “convert” some consumers who might otherwise be swayed by vocal attackers. At a minimum, it shows a willingness to have a discussion. However, veiled attempts at openness are sure to backfire – consider the current Wells Fargo debacle. And when it comes to the U.S. Presidential election campaign’s release of medical records, it is nothing short of a farce.
Good companies who have a sincere desire to provide facts and engage in an open dialogue will shine through when they are truly transparent. They will gain our trust and respect. For the rest, they might as well spare us and save their efforts for other endeavours.