I’m so transparent, I’m invisible.
You may have heard the word ’transparent‘ used in leadership and management. It’s used to build trust and develop your workfroce as true believers, knowing that you are ‘who and what’ you say you are. It’s equally important in branding. Being transparent and authentic in the industry sphere, however, is something not everyone can pull off.
The problem is, that many brands use authenticity and transparency as buzzwords, rather than values, to the point that they don’t mean anything anymore. Everyone would like to SAY they’re transparent, but how many brands actually ARE transparent?
While both of these terms have different meanings and both can be very important to your brand image; particularly for professional services firms, where trust is the basis of your relationships. But what are the differences between transparency and authenticity? How can you utilise these traits in your branding…and why?
Transparency vs. Authenticity
One of the biggest red flags of a disingenuous brand is using the terms ’transparent‘ and ’authentic‘ interchangeably, and this is a lesson you need to learn quickly: these words aren’t synonyms.
- Transparency refers to how much information you’re willing to share. This can vary on a range from low to high transparency, depending on the details provided with the information. Compare “We lost money last quarter” to “We lost $6,000 in Q1 but profited $4,000 in Q2.”
- Authenticity refers to the information you’re sharing — the content, not the details of the content. This refers to your honest opinion, what you believe in and your values reflecting congruently both online and in your personal life.
Understanding transparency: a three step guide
Let’s step back from authenticity and focus solely on transparency. Let’s look at why it’s is important and how we can use it in our branding strategy.
1. Clients, both old and new, appreciate transparency
Traits like trust and value really resonate with clients, and this applies to both potential clients and one you’re already working with. Two reasons why these traits are so important in your branding are that they illustrate honesty and showcase usefulness.
Everyone wants to work with honest professionals. Utilising transparency shows others that you’re willing to be open and honest about your approach, your advice, your firm’s services, your colleagues and, importantly, giving your honest opinion regarding any situation your client finds themselves in or requires assistance and advice on.
Simultaneously, examples and stories aren’t useful or valuable without transparency. If you want to prove a point, you’re better off supporting your argument with statistics and data, not just anecdotes — that’s transparency.
2. There are different levels of transparency
Something you need to understand about transparency is that it’s okay to not share every detail of every story. If you’re talking about fees? Transparency is something that must absolutely be available for clients.
On the other hand, is it necessary to share your birthdate, address and personal business information online? Absolutely not.
You can be a transparent professional while still leaving some things close to your chest. Don’t feel like you have to share information that isn’t relevant, is personal (ie. not part of your professional life) or that makes you uncomfortable.
3. Know when to include transparency
Branding yourself as transparent doesn’t mean simply saying “I’m transparent!” Again, anyone can say they’re transparent, but only a few actually are. If you’re going to claim you’re transparent, you have to back it up by proving it.
Don’t just throw facts around. You have to insert them into your content and advice where they add value. For instance, when you want to talk about profit and revenue, being transparent about your numbers adds value to your content and builds trust. Transparency is also a good tool to use when dispelling myths or confirming a truth in your industry.
Transparency builds trust, and that’s the main takeaway. Trust is something that anyone can find valuable, whether they’re just discovering you as a professional or they’re a committed client. It’s tough to truly figure out where to draw the line when it comes to transparency, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll find it adds true value to your brand, content and relationships.