...that truth and transparency are, in fact, two very different things, and that transparency needs to be pulled apart from truth and examined on its own merits....
Wikipedia has a good working definition of transparency. Here’s the kicker: “In government, politics, ethics, business, management, law, economics, sociology, etc., transparency is the opposite of privacy; an activity is transparent if all information about it is open and freely available.”
Let’s repeat: “Transparency is the opposite of privacy.” Of course, you can’t say that about truth, which drives home the difference between truth and transparency. Truth doesn’t require that “all information…is open and freely available.” It only requires that the information that is presented is honest and accurate. And that gap between the information that is presented and making all information available is the one that PR practitioners have fallen into, tarred with the label of “unethical.”
The conflation of truth and transparency is therefore a problem. While I welcome the increased awareness of ethical practices as a good thing, until we start focusing on the important changes that the increasing demand for transparency is bringing to PR practice, I fear that little will change in terms of the currently dismal reputation of PR.
I am planning on writing more about transparency, truth and the reputation of PR for Global PR Blog Week 2.0. I would very much like to hear from you about the information/transparency gap I describe above. Do you agree? Disagree? I think we really need to delve into what this means and think about guidelines for being transparent. I look forward to your comments.