“Corporate transparency” describes a window into the current state of a business, often during crises. In contrast, “visibility” displays ideal everyday behaviors and scenarios that help internal stakeholders know what their brand should look like in play, and what their roles should look like. With the appropriate emphasis on visibility, your organization is never caught off guard during crisis. 

With social media and watchdog groups tipping the scale of power from corporate to consumers more each day, brands are on notice to “walk the talk.” Preparing organizations for a “fish bowl existance” means keeping the house clean, even when you don’t expect guests. 

The recent United Airlines violent mishandling of a paying passenger who refused to leave his seat caused a wave of policy changes at the carrier. A video address by UAL CEO Oscar Munoz, summarized 10 new commitments to customers. “Procedures got in the way of what’s right,” Munoz said in the video. Among the policy changes were provisions to “Increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000” and “New tools and training for employees to put you in the center of what we do”. This misalignment could get expensive for UAL. It’s one of those hard lessons that illustrates the importance of ongoing brand alignment among everyone who creates, influences, or consumes the brand. If brand behaviors aren’t “baked into” a proactive process and platform, it can potentially cost more in a crisis management and overemphasized policy changes.

How does this example illustrate the contrast and relationship between “transparency” and brand “visibility”?  Though they’re similar concepts, they both play vital, interdependent roles in brand and business health.

Transparency is the extent to which a corporation’s actions are observable by outsiders. To increase transparency, corporations infuse greater disclosure, clarity, and accuracy into their communications with stakeholders. At the extreme, organizations such as Wells Fargo, Enron, and Arthur Andersen provide classic examples of the disastrous effects low transparency can have on a brand. With low transparency, expectations can be set outwardly, while internal behaviors are misaligned; often at odds with the core values of the brand.

In contrast, “visibility” is the discoverability of the brand values and associated behaviors by internal and external stakeholders across the spectrum. It’s how the brand is supposed to look in play; the interactions among multiple levels of stakeholders as they intersect and (ideally) align. These interactions can equate to the “brand experience.”

Though “customer journey” and “brand experience” receive the most focus today, the journeys and brand experiences of employees and distributors are every bit as important. These are, in reality, internal and channel customers of each other, interacting in their experiences as brand creators or influencers. They set the tone for brand alignment and customer engagement. At the extreme, organizations such as Disney and Virgin, by the very essence of their brands, visibly display their values and behaviors as vehicle for transparency and positioning, simultaneously. With this type of organizational visibility it’s easy to see how the optics of transparency are the result of a high-visibility platform.

One of the greatest differences between the two is that “transparency” is a more passive concept and “visibility” a more active concept. What this means is that a transparent company simply opens the window to it’s inner workings. The company with a high visibility platform may have established deliberately embedded channels across silos that influence and align behaviors across the value chain.  By providing visible, ideal examples of how brand creators and consumers should interact, a model of behavior can be emulated by employees and expected by customers. The more brand personality is reflected in the visibility content, the more engaging and better the alignment outcome. That’s why many organizations are turning toward a content strategy rich in Edutainment, which allows for engaging delivery of information that carefully positions knowledge about the brand, including its distinct personality.

In short, visibility can be the lens of transparency.

So, how does a brand create a solid visibility presence? A comprehensive content alignment assessment will reveal misalignment and gaps among content and across media channels. Using the outcome of this assessment to develop an integrated, strategic content program will provide platform for brand visibility that leads by example.

GroPartners Consulting creates strategic content programs that unite expectations among everyone who creates or consumes your brand. For more information on this or other content, contact us here.