Transparency creates path to trust

WikiLeaks is in the news again, this time for the publication of documents that show the previously unknown role that US and British forces played in civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks is in the news again, this time for the publication of documents that show the previously unknown role that US and British forces played in civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, once again, WikiLeaks raises questions about the sister concepts of transparency and disclosure in public communications. Most communicators will agree that transparency is here to stay, including at the highest levels of corporate and government communications, whether or not it is to the benefit of the general public.

Yet, if releasing documents and information to the public is the first step of becoming a transparent organization, then it is also the job of communicators to educate and provide context to stakeholders, including the public, investors, employees, and the media.

The same context is needed for the patients who check government or corporate databases to find out if their doctor receives payments from pharmaceutical companies.

While many pharmaceutical, device, and diagnostic companies have chosen to create databases that show physician payments, there is no standard for whether it is the pharmaceutical company's responsibility to educate patient communities about why it may pay a physician for speaking engagements or research.

In healthcare, just like a number of other sectors, the patient is more empowered than ever when seeking information, whether it's understanding what he or she is paying for during a doctor's visit or why a physician may prescribe one drug or treatment over another.

As we saw this year, a recall, a crisis, or a dive in reputation can happen to any organization. BP, Toyota, and Johnson & Johnson have faced manufacturing or operational issues that very quickly became business, investor, and reputational issues.

While communications can't always prevent a crisis, an organization that is trusted by its stakeholders and willing to provide honest and direct transparent information, with the correct context, will find the path to recovery in reputation, trust, and even sales, an easier route.

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