Don’t reveal your brand’s problems
In November 2013, JP Morgan Bank was in a mess and in all the news as it was criminally investigated for manipulating global financial markets. Someone on his marketing team decided to open JP Morgan for a well-intentioned press, and it went wrong.
The tweet read, “What professional advice would you ask a lead executive at a global firm? Tweet a Q using #AskJPM. On 11/14, a $ JPM leader takes over @JPMorgan.”
The hashtag #AskJPM was created, and the purpose was for JP Morgan to serve as a thought leader for genuine questions from the public. The company had fined nearly $ 1 billion a couple of months earlier for its “London Whale” and then struck a $ 13 billion settlement with the Justice Department the month before the infamous tweet about bad home loans. JP Morgan needed a makeover, but his tweet was deaf to the fury that was unleashed against him.
The bank was exposed to public flogging on social media when consumers criticized them for their questionable business practices. Some of the responses to JP Morgan’s tweet included this: “Did you always want to be part of a vast corrupt criminal enterprise or did you” go bankrupt “? And also this,” When Jamie Dimon eats babies, are they served weird? I understand that anything above medium rare is considered left. “
Transparency is not for everyone
The reality is that transparency is good for business. But if you find yourself in a branding mess, controversy, or there have been bad rumors about your business (that might be true), the last thing you want to do is shine a light on your Achilles heel. First, you need to think hard about all the benefits and potential liabilities.
In the case of JP Morgan, that tweet opened them up to public scrutiny more than they were already experiencing because it seemed to the public that they were simply overlooking issues that were a priority for the people. By the time JP Morgan tweeted to engage the Twitter audience, there was a lot of public anger towards the company.
When transparency doesn’t work
As the JP Morgan story illustrates, transparency can backfire. But it doesn’t just happen in the middle of a brand crisis. It can happen at other points in the business.
- Before the idea is cooked. If you sell consulting services, for example, you want to perform at the highest level and be of service to your client. However, one of the mistakes around transparency is delivering too early, before you’ve had a chance to fully develop an idea. Sometimes, as much as you want to provide your customer with information and transparency about the early stages of the work you are doing, it may be better to wait and hand them the full menu with all the items at a later time. . If you present a concept that isn’t fully developed, they might make decisions based on those first impressions (without having the full picture), and you’ll quickly get back on the drawing board.
- Blaming the culture leads to mistrust. in a Harvard Business Review article, on transparency, the authors pointed to an example of how full transparency can be detrimental. A Dutch energy supplier was rigorous and transparent about its toxic waste management standards. One day, the company’s security office, which had created the rules and criteria, was found dead, having violated what he created. The company went on to focus almost exclusively on the fact that it had broken the rules, rather than investigating why or how it might have happened. The rest of the team were left with the impression that the company wanted to blame the victim rather than understand the more nuanced details surrounding the situation. Employee morale declined and distrust of the company increased.
- Radical transparency backfires. A couple of years ago, it was reported that radical transparency at Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund, became a serious problem. A company employee filed a complaint with the Connecticut Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. The employee indicated that there was continuous video surveillance, which included recording all meetings and security guards patrolling the offices. This had a chilling effect on the company. There were other charges of sexual misconduct and harassment. Bridgewater operated on a day-to-day basis with everything being monitored, including personal cell phones that were locked away at the beginning of each day. The radical transparency, aimed at ensuring that none of his trade secrets left the Bridgewater offices, earned him unwanted scrutiny, hurting the money he was receiving from investors and hurting his bottom line performance.
Today’s businesses have to be much more transparent than a generation ago. However, even transparency requires consideration to ensure that you don’t end up in a situation that serves your brand or business against pushback from the public and your customers.