Getting Comfortable with Transparency
We live in see-through times.
I get emails from Ramona Russell, a PR specialist with a large online following. One that came the other day kind of blew me away. This marketing guru wrote that she was in the midst of mid-summer doldrums, majorly depressed about the anniversary of her sister’s death from cancer at age 28. To distract herself from heat and heartache, she included a list of her 10 favorite things. Including where to buy cute shoes. This email, sent from her business address, was decidedly not about providing PR services.
My colleague and friend Susan runs two successful businesses. This month, her blog describes how she just sold her home in a personal choice to jumpstart semi-retirement. In that post, she includes details about funding her kids’ college education, and where she’ll be spending summers and winters once she officially closes shop. She did not pitch her latest sales tips and techniques. Just one section, in the very bottom of the email, briefly mentions the services she sells.
My client Dana has increased web traffic and the open rate on his monthly emails by writing a series of articles on Reflections on 30 years in Physical Therapy Practice, his story of becoming a physical therapist and growing a large therapy practice that serves his region.
Millennial marketer Leslie Thompson, who is on our team at JFields Marketing, posts regularly about her ‘rogue’ journey as a new freelancer (and all sorts of other parts of her life too). Without flinching, and a lot of humor, Leslie shares inner most feelings with the world (at least the Instagram world) about the joys and challenges of striking out on her own, being married to a new police officer, owning 2 dogs and more. Much more. Here’s a snippet from the career section -
”...we are struggling thru self- employment/entrepreneurship/freelancery ….we knew this would happen when we went rogue. We knew we would face fear and confusion; we just didn’t know how it would feel.”
These are the words of a talented marketing professional, openly sharing the back story of her career and life choices. No slick content about how much she knows about websites, social media and all things marketing. Just the real deal from her keyboard to your eyes about life as she is experiencing it.
All of the above are examples of professionals sharing stories from their lives via social media, email and blogs. Open. Honest. Transparent. With details that often have little to nothing to do with business.
What’s Up with Transparency?
Since the early 2000’s, when technology allowed 24/7/365 access for everyone with a computer, the public sphere has grown exponentially. And the private world has shrunk by nearly the same amount. Everyone, everywhere has access to information, and those same people can now create information. This is a profound shift in the ways businesses present themselves to their public. We get to know people when we share what’s happening in our lives. People don’t buy from companies because of the nice sales pitch, they buy because they like you. They relate and want to connect. Business is about connecting. And we’re all connecting with our phones, tablets and laptops.
Transparency IS the Paradigm
Connecting with your customers takes place first and foremost via the internet. With websites firmly at the center of communication, there has been an increase in companies and individuals taking a more vulnerable and transparent approach to their writing. Instead of telling the world how great your products and services are, businesses now depend on customers to tell the world how great their products and services are. This is done mostly in the form of online reviews. Businesses have to shift the content they create to help potential customers get to know them for who they are. To engage the attention of your audience, that content has to be interesting, helpful and transparent.
Though it seems simple, the practice of writing with a transparent filter can be challenging. Exactly what to say. How to say it. How much detail to share. If I’m going to be completely honest and transparent, I struggle with transparency. That’s why I’m writing about it.
I think I’m like a lot of people who have worked hard to gain professional experience and knowledge. Somehow, sharing stories about myself just doesn’t seem professional. And yet, as a marketer, I know better than most (as you’ve just read) that being transparent IS what connects people to you and your business today. So, it’s high time to begin practicing what I preach. The About page of your website is a perfect place to begin sharing in a more transparent way. The About page on JFields Marketing can be more personal, so I’m updating it, adding content about the beginnings and growth of my company. If getting transparent is hard for you like it is for me, start by editing the About page on your website. Tell the story of how your business began. Who’s on your team. Why you love working, doing what you’re doing every day.
Other ideas for sharing in a more transparent way include:
- Day in your life, personal or business
- A problem and how you fixed it
- What gets your day going
- Favorites lists, including websites, books, resources
- Charitable groups you support and why you love them
Creating and publishing videos is another level of transparency, where people not only get your thoughts, but they get to see you in all your you-ness. Explaining how to do something your customers are always asking about is a great way to help them get to know you better. Short, self-produced videos tend to be less than perfect, creating a natural experience of transparency as people see and hear us, putting them at ease and building a layer of trust. I’ve learned that it’s OK to flub a little and be conversational rather than perfectly scripted and made up. People watching videos appreciate that level of authenticity.
If you really want to go out on a limb, pushing the envelope of transparency, try posting about your revenue. Buffer has done this with success. Sharing the financial details of your business isn’t for everyone, but it does get attention. Companies who share their financials online are trusting you’ll see that as a sign of authenticity and confidence.
I’ll be working my way into being more transparent in the coming weeks, sharing stories of my business, what we’re learning as we grow, and how we’re applying it to become better at what we do. Being transparent in front of the world is scary, unpredictable and risky. It’s also one step in the process of being available and accessible to the people you want to connect with. Transparent writing creates a deeper connection that builds a strong foundation based on trust.
Want to join me on this journey to greater transparency? Join our In a Minute Marketing newsletter (below). Who knows where we’ll end up. Wherever it is, it should make for a good story to share, right?