Too few organizations fail to say anything about their methods, motives and sources. The ability to be transparent and fully disclose
aspects of product direction can be great for customer relationship management
and creating key points of difference for your brand.
“Pretty awful way to end an article. Very respectful to the family involved 10 years ago. In fact, this article was awful in general. Kaity: Highly suggested you don’t denote your *MISTAKES* asterisks, nor publish them in the first place. Double-check your work, as well as the line of work you’ve chosen for your *profession*(asterisks denote mistake in choice of profession).”
It still makes me a little sick to my stomach reading this response that was left on an article in which I was the lead editor. It might make it worse that the reporter on the story was also, although spelled differently, Kaity.
The story hit my desk early. My internal buzzer for fun headlines starting blaring loudly after I drank in the copy. “Bong To Blame For Fraternity Fire, Official Say” is what I frantically typed as the perfect headline. I called the reporter to make sure she double-checked her facts and posted it all up on the web, according to protocol. Then that response came. Then others.
What Went Wrong
Actually, nothing went wrong. After putting the reporter back on the case, we learned that the official who was the source for the story didn’t know the difference between a hookah and a bong. We corrected the story.
See, it’s really easy to create disconnects and have people get angry by what they don’t know and don’t understand. I worked with others to craft a response about how a journalist tackles a story. She met with an expert — a source who was there. A source that would have to validate or verify anything we write prior to publication. The reporter did everything she should have done, but she got tangled up in people not understanding the process of how things work. It’s also policy that when errors get corrected, they are highlighted with asterisks.
After we provided some context as to how information was gathered and reported, we quickly received a lot of apologies — even from the person who left the snarky comment above.
Be An Open Book
I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this, right? Bring your market into the fold. Don’t be afraid to geek out around not only the product but all the hard work that makes it what it is. More importantly, don’t deceive your audience. Whether you’re a product manager or in any position really — don’t do it.
- Show the live system in demos, not smoke and mirrors. If you show something that is beautiful, yet not actually real what happens when someone wants to buy it and you have neither the budget nor the manpower to execute?
- If your product is buggy, be honest about it. It’s better being transparent and accountable than forking over something that’s inoperable and seeing what that does for your reputation.
- You have to see the forest, not the trees. That can really frustrate both internal team members and the clients who desperately want some specific feature but aren’t making the priority list for one reason or another. Take this as an opportunity, both internally and externally to bring visibility into the process. Tell people why it’s not a priority. Perhaps, through market research, you see a majority of customers actually wanting X and this particular customer wants Y. If you have the bandwidth, it would be interesting to dig deeper with the customer that wants Y. What are the problems driving that desire? Are they on to something, is Y actually better than X. There’s a big difference between just saying no and leaving it at that and really working with your market to understand your motives and inner-workings.
Your Business Is Replaceable
Other organizations can replicate what you do and how you do it. The hardest thing to go after is the why — why is your brand doing what it’s doing?
Transparency, in my opinion, can allow a brand to stand out among all the other competitors who claim to offer the exact same thing with the exact same benefits. I find the companies that are showing a 360 degree version of self are often regarded to have more passion and dedication to whatever it is they are doing than competitors who keep everything under closed doors. These are the companies that walk with their customers as partners.
Focus on the customer rather than the competition. Be bold enough to take the risks to be seen in way that others shy from in fear that it would give too much away. One of these companies will remain relevant in the market and with their customers — others will fade into the background and will become irrelevant.