BYU's Susan Walton
and Robert Wakefield paper at #IPRRC2010 suggested a corollary to their colleague Brad Rawlins' transparency research – translucency. They recommend being "translucent" in a crisis i.e. telling your publics as much as you can and being clear about when you can tell them the rest. They postulated that transparency isn't always desirable and in many cases translucency might be a more appropriate stance for a corporation. They suggested that the type of "front door" a corporation or organization has, might vary depending on the crisis or situation at hand. For some, the door is solid oak, a barrier to the world that no one can see into. With no way to see in, these organizations are vulnerable to attack from the media and the community for their lack of transparency. On the opposite end of the spectrum are organizations that are fully transparent. Beth Israel Hospital and CEO Paul Levy's "Running a Hospital" blog is a good example of how total transparency can built trust and enhance communications. Then there are the vast majority of organizations that fall somewhere in between, with doors that are more "frosted glass." As Professor Walton put it "you can see shapes moving about, but not the details." They advocated that "translucency" as a more ethical behavior in some situations. For example, if your CFO is leaving, it's one thing to not comment, or say that he/she is leaving "to spend more time with his/her family" but you may not want or be able to go into the details of the sex scandal he/she was caught in. Their paper put some very useful definitions around the concept.
- Translucency is a commitment to communicate to your stakeholders – not an advance commitment to what that communication will contain. I thought this was particularly useful in the age of Twitter when a rumor can go viral in minutes – long before you have time to even track down the facts.
- Translucency occurs when credibility has already been established -- in other words, translucency only works when your stakeholder believes that the sender has their best interests at heart.
- Translucency might be most effective when there is reason to believe an organization's arguments and data are rock solid but not persuasive.
- Translucency is most effective when an organization already has in place a process and structure for bringing greater light thru the glass