When Agencies Can’t Be Transparent

When approaching clients on objectives to begin social media, agencies focus on three overarching areas: consumer trust, brand engagement and transparency. Is this the approach of all agencies? No, but it can be a starting point to figure out specific end goals. Transparency can come in a few forms: the form of humanizing the brand; the form of understanding the consumer and responding; or the form of disclosing sensitive information.

But, what happens when you can’t be transparent?

The agency / client dynamic is one that varies, dependent on the brand. Agencies can be completely different than in-house PR. Some utilize their agency as a partner; while others utilize their agency as a tool. The difference lies in the fact that there is trust and disclosure with a partner, and often times, they are brought into high level discussions.

Think of your own Twitter stream. Think of what you do behind the scenes at work. Is that knowledge the same as the impression you relay on social mediums? Brands operate in the same way. There are instances and circumstances where their hands are tied. It’s not just public relations involved in social media, but the C-Suite, Legal team, customer service and more. All groups have opinions, regulations and people to answer to.

Those circumstances are never relayed, with only the facts conveyed. In crisis communications exercises in journalism school, we were taught to share only important and straight to the point facts with the public. Why, then, do we throw stones at companies and critique their responses? Should we further investigate the how of the situation, instead of jumping to the ‘Why’ so quickly?

Agencies have the double edge sword – they have pressure from their own higher-ups to execute the scenario correctly, while also answering to a client. In this world where consumers want brands to be as open as possible, it’s quite true that expectations can be set too high when an actual business comes into play. When an actual crisis happens, many tend to focus on one key area without exploring others.

Is there a point where you step back and realize the client has to make the decision, and go with it? Or do you continue to bridge your case? Is it fair to throw stones when we don’t know the situation?

Let’s discuss.

Photo credit: W Promote

This guest post was written by Lauren Fernandez, Agency Community Manager for Radian6. She blogs at LAF, is on Twitter @cubanalaf and has an insane love for the Green Bay Packers.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.