Twitter, transparency, and CSR
Twitter and other rapid social media have created a new paradigm in terms of corporate communication, response, and responsibility. These tools have the ability to show the emperor’s clothes of companies and are doing so. True Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability leadership may help to guide and protect companies from the ravages of these new communication paradigms. They may in fact become the instruments of corporate success.
Transparency is paramount in truly sustainable and successful business ventures. Only when business are transparent can everyone involved trust each other. Business is fundamentally about degrees of trust. Sustainability is about integrity through corporate responsibility to the triple bottom line.
Twitter is double edged sword. It will just as soon lift you up as cut you down. It is currently the fastest news source out there. Not only is it fast, it is immediately unforgiving. This can have devastating effects. I think of the recent #amazonfail debacle with respect to Amazon.com’s accidental(?) reclassification of GLBT books. Clay Shirky‘s Mia Culpe “I got swept up in the mess” honest critique of the situation and how it happened is classic http://tinyurl.com/ctajxf.
The upside of twitter’s speed? Because of it’s nature of presenting things “right now,” old news (i.e. more than a couple of days) disappears. Try searching for things that occurred days, weeks, or months ago on Twitter. Good luck.
Another positive: If you have some great news, Twitter has an amazing ability to get that news out to lots of places really fast. If it is not interesting though, no one will retweet it.
I think it is imperative that corporations have communication / social media experts on their teams to watch for threats and opportunities presented by this new media. How quickly they respond to situations can make all the difference – In a twittered world 5 days is too long – over the weekend, in the case of Amazon is too long. Note that ad hoc, poor interactions by company leadership can be equally devastating. Good, clear, considered, and quick responses are called for.
Well thought out accountability and apologies can go far – take Jet Blue Airlines in Feb 2007 following a weather shutdown over Valentines day. While customers and media were yelling for explanations and reparations from the airline industry and the status quo message was – “We are not responsible for the weather.” Jet Blue issued a “Customer Bill of Rights” All airlines were affected. Only Jet Blue said – “We’re Sorry and here is what we are going to do about it.” Was it the MBA business-case response – no, far from it; it was an expensive thing to do. What it was however, was the right thing to do and that action won the hearts and minds and business of America. (Side note: In the twitterverse – the 6 day delay from event to Jet Blue’s apology is too long. Having said that – if it had been twittered it would have spread like wildfire!)
Only a truly embedded culture of sustainability and corporate responsibility is sustainable. If it is just show, jargon, the latest “values” trend, or marketing/consulting gimmick – It will fail. Remember, sustainability is about integrity (walking the talk). It is the load stone. Steer your company and communication toward it.
Copyright © 2009 Matthew Rochte, Opportunity Sustainability℠. Share with full attribution.
Matthew Rochte is an experienced, operations-based sustainability consultant working with company management to navigate and realize the opportunities in taking their company green, leading through corporate responsibility, and growing sustainably.