An organization has an obligation to be honest and transparent with stakeholders about its actions and aspirations. Changing dynamics in the communications environment—with multiple digital channels and unaffiliated authors— are compelling many organizations to forego third-party content creators and outlets. Instead, they are directly engaging stakeholders through organization-owned channels with proprietary content.
With this in mind, a group of participants from Page’s Future Leaders Experience– a two-year executive education program – developed the following principles to guide organizations and communications professionals as they plan, create and publish content for internal and external audiences.
- RESPECT THE TRUTH: Get the facts right
Consistent with the first Page Principle, create and publish content that is honest, fair, and provides an accurate picture of the enterprise's character, values, ideals, goals and actions. Organizations should strive to be credible sources of information. This includes:
• Favoring transparency: Cite all sources and source all claims, making it easy for the audience to understand where information comes from. Never plagiarize. Anonymous sources are never appropriate for content in a business environment.
• Verifying facts and data for accuracy: Be critical of all data sources, including internal sources. Validate before publishing through a comprehensive review process.
• Fixing errors quickly and transparently: Avoid deleting inaccurate content; instead, correct it with comments that clearly state what was edited and why.
• Respect trademarks, copyrights and other third-party rights.
- BE HONEST BEYOND WORDS: Present facts and opinions in proper context
Organizations should provide the complete scope of the topic and not selectively use or alter data, facts or imagery to mislead. This includes:
• Identifying opinion pieces as opinion: Clearly label personal or business beliefs, interpretations or commentary as such.
• Don’t hide behind the curtain: Be forthcoming about sponsorships, partnerships and patronage.
• Do not alter imagery: Never alter or manipulate any visual image – whether photo or video – with the intent to mislead. Whenever possible, identify subjects of content and photos fully and clearly.
• Use factual headlines: They should be compelling and accurate, not mislead the audience about the actual content.
- SEEK UNDERSTANDING: Know and tell a complete story.
Communication professionals have an obligation to consider more than just what messages are being communicated to stakeholders. They must also consider how messages will be received, and work to avoid misinterpretation. This includes:
• Using common language: Avoid corporate jargon, legalese, insider acronyms and overly complicated or technical language. Use a human voice and common words and phrases.
• Review all communication activities, including those intended for internal audiences. • Being inclusive and treat people with respect: use language that does not discriminate by gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexuality, appearance or belief.
• Promoting interaction and engagement: Provide feedback channels for all content to enable two-way dialogue and engagement with your audience.
• Identifying content creators by name: Organizations don’t communicate; people do. As such, attach names to communications as much as possible, avoiding generic or corporate messages.
Special thanks to the following individuals for their contribution to this blog:
Michael Jennings, PSEG
Jeffrey Mochal, LPL Financial
Catherine M. Wanzer, Quad
Faryar Borhani, IFC Next
Katherine Burns, Deloitte
Taylor Clark, USAA
Kerry Hackett, Edelman
Laura Hortas, Bristol-Myers Squibb
Farra Levin, Kaiser Permanente
Erin Lickliter, Kroger
April Nelson, Cargill
Christina Noland, Astellas
Jennifer Ryan, Northwestern Mutual
Alison Wertheim, Schwab
Renee Young, Grainger