A few weeks ago, I attended an event where Trevor Hardy, CEO, The Future Laboratory, outlined five trends shaping the future of marketing and communications. These were:

  • Radical transparency
  • Embrace uncertainty
  • Emotional economy
  • Brands as educators
  • Think long and slow

I’ve digested and considered them, and tried to apply them to the B2B marketing and PR world. There’s a lot here, so I’m splitting it up across five days – one for each theme. Today, I’ll address ‘radical transparency’.

We all know that ‘trust’ – be it in institutions, organisations or authority in general – has been on the wane for some time. It seems this distrust is accelerating.

Trevor contended that marketers and communications professionals should seek to demonstrate ‘radical transparency’. At its core, this is about brutal honesty and complete openness. It goes to the notion that, by publishing everything, it demonstrates that organisations have nothing to hide. At the extreme, some companies in the ethical fashion world have started to publish profit margins and costs related to products.

Yes, this is extreme – and is unlikely to be popular in B2B board rooms. But as we found with a recent Aperture client, customers in high jeopardy environments – where they are responsible for something that is intrinsically linked the viability of their organisation – need a strong sense of control. You can’t just talk control, you have to demonstrate the ‘handover’ of control. Transparency is psychologically critical to giving customers in high jeopardy environments a sense of control – and there are different ways of achieving this.

Trevor said that research has revealed that an organisation’s past success is less interesting and resonant than an organisation’s future vision. I’d add ‘and its people’, as focusing on services and technology actually undermines efforts to build trust.

So B2B marketers and communicators need to focus more on how their organisation will act in the future, and who those actors are. Being good is not good enough – audiences are judging companies on their deficiencies, not their areas of success. The challenge for marketers is to proactively manage any deficiencies in a transparent manner. Simple…

Tomorrow ‘embracing uncertainty’!