Hiding behind transparency

Being open and transparent is at the centre of ethical PR and communication work. It is talked about a lot and particularly at the moment as we have all been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Effective crisis communication has to be transparent and honest to build confidence in what is being said and done. But how do we create this transparency? And are there ways that we can build barriers with transparency?

It may sound a bit odd to say that transparency can create a barrier but it depends on how we are using it. If we are reducing communication in other ways at a time when we are creating something we believe is transparent the end result is more closed communication. I have been thinking about this in relation to the Government’s plan for a daily Presidential style press conference and what it may mean to communication.

The move could be really positive if it is really part of ways to improve and develop open Government. It is a chance to share information and to answer questions about the issues of the day. Alongside existing communication this could be part of a way to increase accessibility. Perhaps it could even increase the interest and focus on decision making and politics.

But, and this is a really big but, if it is introduced in place of other communication, and becomes the sole and main focal point for the activity it can very quickly become a barrier to transparency. It reduces access to decision makers and can limit the amount of information that is released. This means less transparency and more artificial soundbites.

In my book Crisis Communication Strategies I talk about how vital honest and open communication is in building confidence. Confidence that will be essential during the crisis but also will build a strong recovery. This openness comes from real engagement, listening and responding. It cannot come from carefully scripted and worded briefings.

It will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming weeks. Will we be in a world of America-style press conferences and Twitter statements? Or could there be increased access to Government and decision-making in a post-Covid world?

What do you think of the move to Presidential-style daily briefings? Will they increase transparent communication?

This entry was posted in communication, Covid-19, crisis communication, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Hiding behind transparency

  1. Padraig McKeon says:


    I would share the sense of concern. For me the phrase in your piece is “Alongside existing communication this could be…” and I would emphasis *alongside* and *could*.

    Looking from outside there is already a version of a ‘presidential’ briefing where there seems to be already a variance on detail and straight answering between the elected representatives and the technical staff.

    I’m not close enough to the detail to understand exactly what is planned but from the distance, those seems a lot more like a narrowing of the stream rather than a broadening. It speaks more to ‘propaganda’ than it does to communication, the latter being two way and open.

    This seems framed, to me, to fit the need of the sender to have a simpler message rather than responding to the need of the audience (which is dynamic) to receive better information. Those two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but I fear that they are in this instance?.

    I may be missing something but if so I would suggest that this concept is not being sold as it should be?



  2. Padraig McKeon says:

    the *KEY phrase


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