LearnBlogging Tips for Downturn 2.0

Ryan Carson
writes on February 16, 2009

Matt Cowen (@londonjourno) from Reuters just published a short piece on me. He wanted to talk about the fact that when times are good, everyone sings the praises of using social media transparently. However, as soon as things get tough, everyone wants to hide.

There are some important questions to answer here. The primary one being: Should businesses be transparent and honest, even when it might hurt them?

I’d love to hear your thoughts …

[Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/grantmac]

0 Responses to “Blogging Tips for Downturn 2.0”

  1. The truth can only be hidden for so long and when it does come out do you wanna be the one who has been hiding it or the one telling it. People who are upfront usually take some lumps but usually rise eventually.

  2. Truth is one thing and being able to acknowledge and then speak the truth is another. I find that a large majority of people are so afraid of being found out especially if they have been pretending to be someone they are not. I’m a blabber about too much in my life and that’s no good either. I’m a open book but I truly don’t have a problem with that.

  3. What a great piece, bro, congrats! Sportin’ that Fedora, so damn cool.

    Integrity and Transparency should be important in all business, but thank goodness, have become a necessity in the social web. People demand it, and if they don’t get it, they will flip the f*ck out and get others to turn on you in a hurry (ie, Facebook TOS debacle).

    That’s what many of us LOVE about this blog and Carsonified in general, you don’t ever feel like you are getting “gamed”. Having worked with Ryan briefly, I can say from experience, he is the “real deal”, Integrity and Transparency is not some gimmick, it lays at the foundation of Carsonified, that in itself, is an impressive accomplishment.

  4. Honest and transparent, Yes. When I look back at times that I’ve purchased or done business with a site that I had no previous knowledge of, it was their transparency and honestly that made me lower my “internet security” guard and provide them with my credit card. I think it’s the same in the B-to-B world. Being honest will always attract more people to you company and allow them to feel more comfortable doing business with you.

    Being open and honest will get you two types of people. Those that like you for who you are and those that don’t. And transparency and honesty shows humility, which in my mind is the most vital component to a successful career, life and business/personal relationships.

    Humility shows you’re willing to fail learn from your mistakes. It’s definitely something I’ve been practicing more of lately and plan to transition my freelance design business into as I continue to grow it out.

    Thanks for the post and sharing your thoughts. Keep up the great work.

  5. I appreciate your willingness to take risks like this. Lots of companies try to avoid all kinds of risks — now even more so — but if you don’t take risks, what are you going to gain? It’s a business 101 lesson.

    However, your sartorial sense doesn’t harken back to another era. Hats indoors? Don Draper would not be pleased. 🙂

  6. @Andy Wright – Thanks bud! It’s been a joy working with you 🙂

  7. Yes, absolutely.

    Transparency and honestly have been sorely lacking in the corporate world for too long, and it could easily be argued that this has gone a long way to bringing about the unpleasant situation we now find ourselves in.

    It was Ryan’s helpful tips and videos that first brought him to my attention, and it was his open and honest approach to business that made me want to wok with him.

    It has been a fun and rewarding experience, and I would recommend it if you have the opportunity.

  8. I think if your “being real” on the internet about your company then you should be prepared for the fact that people just may not like you…

  9. Perhaps it is time for reality to surface.

    Why pretend?

    And then we must more on.

    There are three things we know about the internet. It forces transparency on organisations; it makes them much more porous and the internet acts as an agent and changes what organisations do and say either because people do it or the technology does.

    Big institutions have tried to build a dam to stop this happening and are now seen to have failed in the most dramatic way. What price hiding the truths when faces with a public pummelling before a committee of the House of Commons? Lets take banks as an example. They were less than transparent with regulators and each other. Guess what? We now know that they were being dishonest. In the end transparency is forced on them.

    So what are the new rules that can preserve integrity (especially about things like personal data) and commercial confidentiality?

    Most organisations have to obey regulations and have someone who is responsible for regulatory compliance. For banks this is a real person. Most organisations have to assess risk. For banks this is a real person. Most organisations have to create, sustain and develop relationships. For banks, that is the head of public relations.

    Its not just banks, its every organisation.

    Now, we have to find a way forward. How do we give these people the space they need. Well, they need to be able to report to the board regularly and, because this information is often sensitive, it may be sensible to keep it that way but in such a way that it protects long term shareholder value. Simple, send a copy of the regulatory, risk and reputation monthly evaluation to the regulator ( a mandatory report that can be audited by the regulator). Then, if the company needs to raise money, get public money or acquire/sell assets in other organisations the information will have to be released by the regulator (in the case of the banks, the FSA).

    Across all businesses this simple discipline would be very helpful and would make organisations much more transparent.

    So who watches the regulator. Its quite simple. Part of their mandate will be to publish a quarterly assessment of all the organisations in aggregate and will be held accountable by the public.

    So how does that help small companies?

    It makes for more stable relationships, with customers and suppliers. It sets a standard we all aspire to and it is good for shareholders. But most of all it stops spin getting in the way of the truths that all businesses have to face but would rather hide.

  10. @Joel Hughes – I agree. I’d much rather deal with a company who isn’t trying to spin things. The more real, the better.

  11. Personally I’d rather give my money to companies and services that don’t appear to using spin and PR to give a false impression.

    Honesty matters to me, however I think this may be a minority point of view. If you look at the most successful brands (other than various Web brands) many have been thriving on misinformation and spin for years (Coke, Nike, the motor industry etc…).

    Hopefully the web industry changes the way the general population responds to this.

  12. @Ed Hart – I don’t think just some good PR is the best way to handle a bad situation. Learn from it. When a company is transparent and honest, the pressure is there to not only keep your actions honest so you remain honest, but when something negative happens, focus on how you are going to fix the problem. And then, follow it up with your proposed actions.

    Good PR comes from the same principle – honesty.

  13. Corporate honesty exists in shades of grey, not in black and white…

    Where a material fact needs to be made public because of something that has happened (or about to happen), the fallout usually has more to do with sensitive handling of the PR, than the facts themselves.

    So, yes, honesty is a good course of action, but back up less than flattering stories with some good PR.

  14. Businesses (people too) should always be honest.

    If honesty will hurt them it means there’s something else wrong. So they should be honest about it and try to fix it.

  15. Should businesses be transparent and honest, even when it might hurt them?

    Personally, I really appreciate honesty, wherever I find it. Even if the truth hurts, which it often does, I’ve found truth to be almost always liberating. For most of my life, I’ve repressed the truth about who I am and what I think. I’ve not exactly lied, but I’ve certainly not laid it all out there. And it’s been tremendously damaging.

    On the occasions where I’ve fought against the fear and been truthful despite it being painful and difficult, it’s always turned out well in the end.

    This is on a personal level, but I’m not sure it’s that different for businesses. Of course, this is only my perspective, but I love it when a business tells me the truth about how it works or what it’s doing. Even if that truth is hard to take.

    I think the piece above is typically idiotic. It tries to blend the issues of telling the truth and how you present this information into a nice short piece with no depth that ignores the subtleties of the situation. “Look at this guy! He told people what was going on in his business and he got loads of nasty comments! Ooooh! Baaaad!”

    A blog, as far as I can see, is a way of conducting a discussion. Like a discussion, when someone misunderstands what you say, you can refine your point further in the comments. And the reaction you had, as I understand it, wasn’t so much about what you said as how people interpreted what you said.

    Businesses should be as transparent and honest as they can stand to be, but should think carefully about how this could be misinterpreted. Ultimately, there will always be some negative fallout on a controversial post because someone gets the wrong end of the stick. It’s one of the prices you pay for trying to be open.

    A business just needs to decide for themselves if that’s a price worth paying.

  16. I think your point about continual upbeat blogs being perceived as just PR is spot on.

    We all learn something and get better from this degree of honesty.

  17. I’m all for honesty. Thanks for the post.

  18. Ryan — interesting interview 🙂
    Your honesty and transparency online have been a refreshing difference to others out there, making you and your team who you are – and I’m sure this was and will always be part of your success.
    Though I know there are downsides – I think you have come through those even stronger, demanding the respect of our industry – whether they agree with your approach or not.

    I hope you will carry on as you are and remain true to yourselves 😉
    Wishing you all the best, as always.

  19. Andrea Gambedotti on February 16, 2009 at 4:04 pm said:

    I think for a professional transparency is always a good thing. If you have nothing to hide, and show it, customers may feel more confident and branding efforts turns out more effective.

  20. If you’re only honest when you can profit from it, that’s not honesty – it’s opportunism or something.

  21. Yes… Well that’s my view anyway but then it’s a value I hold personally and bring with me into my work, and I appreciate not everyone will feel the same.

    I believe honesty and transparency can help bring about better working relationships as I try to support and serve my customers. I hope it fosters a refreshing approach to business, and so far I’ve yet to be proved wrong.

    That said, when things go Pete Tong and there’s a potential backlash – well I’ve yet to cross that bridge, but I would like to think I would hold to my values and hope that honesty would strike a cord with my customer(s) and my relationships would be stronger for it. Else I’ll have learnt a valuable lesson!

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