• Larry Washington

Be transparent. They can see through you anyway.

Updated: Nov 12, 2019

By now, brands know that transparency helps build authentic relationships with the right people. Consumers today, empowered by information, are no longer limited to a handful of big brands—whether they’re looking for fair trade coffee, organic bamboo baby clothes, or energy-efficient kitchen gadgets, they’ll find a provider that matches their value system.

You already know you’ve got to win more than their wallets. You’ve got to win their head and their hearts.

With a great sustainability story, that’s easy to do. But what if your brand is going through something that today’s mindful consumers might not like?

You’ve got to tell your whole company story—even if it’s not great news.

By revealing your issues along with what you’re doing to improve, you give people an opportunity to be understanding—even forgiving. As long as you keep your customers involved in the changes your company is making, they’ll follow your progress and become invested in your mission to improve.

The world is watching as Blue Bell Creameries and Chipotle—both brands with deeply devoted fan bases—negotiate transparency after the much-publicized Listeria and E. Coli outbreaks.

Although both companies have hit bumps on the road of recovery, the brands are using their broad social media reach to keep customers up-to-date on changes in practices. And many fans are responding positively.

Blue Bell and Chipotle’s stories show that honesty deepens the relationship with consumers who are already invested in what you do. Plus, everybody loves a good ol’ Triumph Over Adversity story.

Remember: The Truth Will Out

Every part of your story is already out there, like it or not. There’s no longer such a thing as a skeleton in the closet.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking secrets last. The Volkswagen scandal is a prime example of how a loyal customer base feels betrayed when a company’s practices are revealed to not align with the very value system that won those customers in the first place.

If you’ve done the hard work of gaining people’s trust, being transparent—even in the midst of a crisis—will keep that trust on your side.

When things aren’t going well, you’ve got to do more than “get ahead of a scandal.” You’ve got to admit wrongdoing, address problems, and make a genuine commitment to live up to the standards consumers expect of your company.

When things are back on track, you’ll mean more to your audience than you did before.


When you’re transparent and truthful, especially in the bad times, people are more likely to develop a lasting connection with you. If you don’t have a sustainable or stewardship story that connects you better get one.Your story is exposed today whether you like it or not.

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