Transparency, Emerging Social Media Issue

  • 3 min read

How authentic and transparent is your brand and your interests?

Transparency is becoming a big issue. Important for customers, stakeholders and therefore for business of all types. There is an interesting report in Social Media Today on the Importance of transparency in brand communications on social media. The article resonated with a lot of what I advise and write on in my role leading the CSR Training Institute and reading it inspired this post.

I think for many of us in smaller home-based crafting sorts of businesses, like those of you making amazing products from shea butter in your homes and selling for a (hopefully) profit, it is an issue that can be a bit confusing. It isn’t easy for many of us to take profit selling products to friends, family and others.

I used to (and sometimes still do) struggle with it. There was a lot of soul searching when we launched Baraka Shea Butter as to what the business model would be.

I knew the business had to have a strong social purpose, one that was core to the value proposition of the business; one that would drive social and economic impact in the homes and communities that provided our Baraka Shea Butter.

On the other side, I knew that to fulfill that social impact mission we also had to be profitable. I didn’t have the economic luxury of doing this work on a volunteer basis. Like most of you, I need to earn a living and support a family.

I have always tried to be very clear about communicating both dimensions of our mission, social impact AND profitability. Baraka is essentially a private, profit driven venture with a tightly integrated social impact mission. And we have tried to always let that be known. We are not altruistic angels, do-gooders out to save the world. I need Baraka to make a profit and cover my time and expenses or it will shut down and I will have to do something else.

Many have suggested that I should have set it up as a non-profit, or, as many do, highlighted the social purpose aspect and kept silent on the profit motive. I’ve seen a lot of that.

Some of our competitors are privately owned but have names and communications that make them seem otherwise – and often not very specific or transparent communications so when they talk about all the good they do you can’t trace it to a community or a person. And, I have been told by several, that when they are asked for specific information they either ignore it or provide information that is general and can’t be verified.

We have always tried to be very clear that the social and community impact we have also helps our brand and marketing. We could frame our communications around how wonderful and noble we and the impact Baraka has. But, that would be less than true and certainly not transparent. The reality is that most of our customers are clear when asked. Baraka’s social impact is a key part of their decision to buy from us and keep buying from us. That doesn’t mean that quality and service aren’t important, they are, critically important and we are extremely proud that all of our reviews on Google and Facebook are 5/5. But, the social impact is the difference maker. Many are like us and want to know that their purchases are supporting good work as well as buying quality products.

We are about to launch a new program, Baraka Inside (watch for a newsletter coming soon and a Facebook Group next month) that will be all about helping our customers, those of you who buy Baraka Shea Butter and make products with it, to take advantage of the social impact created by Baraka and the customers who buy from us (and their customers too)

If things like social responsibility, communication strategy and transparency are interesting to you there are a number of related articles on our sister company, CSR Training Institute’s resource centre and more posted every week.