This past September, I volunteered with my favorite Chicago-based startup Dabble during a refreshingly vulnerable marketing campaign with an unusual goal: to decide whether the company would live or die. For this campaign, it entered into “Thirty Days of Honesty,” in which co-founders Jess Lybeck and Erin Hopmann blogged candidly about their struggles keeping the start-up financially sustainable.
When we traditionally think of public relations, we associate it with brands shining a spotlight on their best qualities and avoiding negative mentions. In a brazen move, Dabble took one of the most stressed, yet often ignored, pieces of advice for crisis communications to heart with their campaign: be transparent.
It isn’t often you hear of a startup shout from the rooftops that they have yet to develop a business model that will allow them to generate enough revenue to keep the business going. You don’t hear about the emotional impacts of a company having to layoff almost their entire staff. You also don’t get to hear about the feedback, both positive and negative, that a company receives – from customers, funders and those who just want to see you succeed.
Through this brutally honest month of blogging, this tiny startup received national coverage from publications such as Forbes, Mashable and Good. The Thirty Days of Honesty website attracted over 45,000 page views, referred more than 2,000 new visitors to Dabble’s home page and welcomed more than 800 new newsletter subscribers. To top it all off, Dabble was greeted with overwhelming support from the community, entrepreneurs and Dabble investors. At the end of the month, they used the feedback they had sourced to develop what they hope will be a sustainable business plan.
What are the benefits of transparency in your brand’s communications?
1. Build trust
A refreshing dose of honesty – especially when it points out your brand’s faults – will help your audience trust all of your communications efforts. With an expectation of honesty no matter what, your audience will feel like they are never going to hear a sanitized version of the truth.
2. Stand out for having something refreshingly “uncanned” to say
If you are looking to get noticed, a great way to fail is to say the safe, expected thing. A bit of brashness will shock people and get them talking.
3. Source real feedback to help improve
When your life is your brand, it is easy to have tunnel vision. Real criticism from outside sources can help improve your brand, but obtaining that type of feedback isn’t always easy. By starting the conversation with unabashed transparency, your audience will know you are ready to take constructive criticism seriously.
What are your thoughts on brand transparency?