How to Maintain Brand Transparency

The scene: a (fictional) high school lunchroom in Michigan, May of 1981.

The players: Vice President George Bush, and student Lindsay Weir.

Lindsay, to the Vice President: “My question is: Why did your staff reject my question? Are you afraid of an open discourse with the students?”

And there we have it. A fictional high school student summarizes every content creators fear: if I don’t respond to everyone, will I be accused of fearing open discourse? Will I become the closed off companies I hate?

How can I maintain a transparent brand, without opening myself to unnecessary criticism?

Relevant Questions, Chosen Responses

In Ahava Leibtag’s new book The Digital Crown, she reminds us to┬ápick and choose when to respond. But how can we be both democratic – an open book so to speak, and also pick and choose? The answer, in my opinion, is relevance.

Legend has it that a reporter waiting in JFK’s hotel lobby was once given a tip that women who were not Jacqueline Kennedy were going up to visit the president. The reporter supposedly responded, “who cares?” The president, to his mind, was not responsible for the moral compass of the country. His job was to make smart and safe political decisions for the country.

Brand Transparency and Communication

Although modern day reporters have a different belief when it comes to the president’s personal life, it’s JFK’s reporter we should emulate as we pick and choose who to respond to in our content strategies. Consider the following scenarios.

The Wrong Medium

A Facebook follower asks a question on the company’s Facebook wall. But it’s a complicated question and not easily answered via this medium. You can still communicate with this follower. Perhaps give an overview and provide an email address or phone number to call for more information.

The Wrong Person

An anonymous commenter on the company’s blog rants about how they disagree with what the company has said in a recent article. Often companies feel defensive in these situations, but given that the post is anonymous, they will likely never see a response. There’s no reason to engage in a conversation that is really just a one-sided rant.

The Wrong Answer

A Twitter follower sends out a tweet complaining about an issue they had with your company. It’s tempting to ignore comments like this, particularly if you believe the follower is in the wrong. But often, Twitter followers just want to be acknowledged, and a simple “We’re so sorry to hear about this problem – please email us at so we can help” can go a long way, and take little time.

Brand Guidelines

Every situation is different, but setting up examples and guidelines will help to make audience communications easier for everyone on your marketing or content team. Particularly if everyone remembers that the relevant comments are the valuable ones.

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