Transparency is here to stay and corporations and governments are grappling with this reality. From Bank of America to the Arab Spring, to Jamie Dimon’s JP Morgan, to China’s on going focus on web censorship, the digital universe not only has transformed the way people relate to each other, but to businesses and governments as well. I’m going hit on three salient points relative to transparency: 1) uncovering crusaders, 2) crisis management, 3) social responsibility.
The searing affect of our new interconnectedness is the ability to effectively mobilize people on vertical issues without the involvement of the mainstream media. Obama’s campaign, perhaps better than anyone, understands the power of our new interconnectedness through its micro-donations campaigns. Micro-donors in themselves may generate a money-bomb, but the $3 donation actually sheds light more about particular issues or platform than it is about the money. From the campaign’s perspective, the received $3, but more importantly the money helps identify people who are motivated and allows them to stay connected to them. These are the campaign crusaders.
Crisis Management & Public Relations
From Washington to Wall Street, the game continues to change. Jami Dimon and his team inherently understood how the new interconnectedness could have driven even a bigger wedge between Wall Street and Main Street and took to the airwaves and the web at the same time. In a classic case of crisis management, he admitted the problem at hand, issued an immediate apology, answered questions at – a very friendly – Congressional Hearing. In his testimony, Mr. Dimon was contrite and forthright both in his demeanor and answers (even though it seemed like some members of Congress were apologizing to him). Kudos to him and his crisis management team on taking the reigns and getting out front in managing the crisis. JP Morgan seemed to understand the consequences from Main Street (remember it’s in the retail banking business now) if its approach would have been aloof like BP or indifferent / dear in headlights like AIG. No matter what happens going forward in the house of JP Morgan, from this point on, dare I say that Dimon and his team delivered real value to shareholders and the markets in the way they handled the crisis. But Dimon and JP Morgan et. al. be forewarned, while your communications strategies seemed to save the day, people will watch your deeds more than your words.
It seems that after every crisis companies pump up the volume on their social responsibility campaigns. Yet, in their efforts to show contrition, social responsibility campaigns seem to be “turned on or rolled out” after a crisis rather than smoothly continuing as part-and-parcel of existing integrated campaigns. Transparency is an essential ingredient to any social responsibility initiatives. As well intentioned as they may be, they will always need to be deeper and more meaningful in the coming days because of hyper digitization of our lives. Social responsibility initiatives must transcend “talking points” and deliver meaningful programs that drives value to both the community and the corporation or government sponsor.
Talk is cheap, but transparency is golden.
Abe Kasbo is CEO of Verasoni Worldwide, A Marketing and Public Relations Firm based in Montclair, NJ.