Tactical Transparency and Organized Authenticity

In an essay about his book, “Tactical Transparency,” John C. Havens discusses Barack Obama, Social Media, and Google Alerts.

In the wake of Barack Obama’s recent victory, multiple online pundits have touted how largely Social Media played a role in his successful campaign. However, not enough (imo) have noted that the reason it was so successful was not solely because he and his team knew how to use/utilize new media, but that those of us who followed his Tweets (on or received text messages, felt like we were really connecting with Obama and his team on a personal level. Even though I know Obama was not sending me a personal text thanking me for my support, I had a moment’s rush of adrenaline when I saw Barack’s name on my phone and felt really connected to his message and mission.


This was the key to his triumph in regards to building trust amongst his audience and voters and relied on two central elements:

1. Organization
2. Authentic communication

In other words, he and his staff were tactical in their transparency, which (full disclosure) is the title of a book I recently co-authored called Tactical Transparency: How Leaders Can Leverage Social Media to Maximize Value and Build their Brand. I’m excited an honored to be writing for Internet Evolution about the nature of online authenticity, and Barack’s campaign provides a great case study for how other organizations can be use transparent means to build trust with their key audience.

So here’s the basic premise of the book:

Transparency does not mean full disclosure. Sarbanes Oxley and the like mandate certain disclosure but you are allowed to shape the message around your brand.

You are not in control of the message about your brand online. This is simply just a fact. Anyone can say anything about you or your organization. But you can and should provide an interactive portal online where you show yourself inserted into as many conversations as possible about your brand in an open and objective fashion.


Social Media is here to stay. and it’s only getting more prevalent. I’m not interested in hearing you say you “don’t get Facebook” or “can’t see the ROI in new media.” Remember that online interaction is the parlance of everyone under the boomer age and not speaking online-eze means you are simply irrelevant to the younger workforce and demographic. Think how you would react if you went to a job interview and they only used faxing for interoffice communication (“I don’t see the ROI in email”). It’s time to get over yourself and realize whatever money may change hands via social media it’s a whole new way of speaking and you can’t be mute.

You’re allowed to start small. We all hear about the major success stories of big brands making wins in social media and this likely pressure you and your organization into thinking big means better online. It doesn’t. Real connection trumps razzle dazzle. An organization of any kind may get more PR from one genuine connection with a customer than with a multi-faceted media campaign whose splash lacks substance.

You have to start and you have to start now. I’m not interested in hearing you’re not ready to being a social media campaign at this time. Three letters to burn onto your brain — SEO. If you don’t have lots of fresh new content for Google’s spider bots to detect and push you up the charts online, you DO NOT EXIST. Should I say this again? It’s great that your main portal has flash video and lush colors and great headlines. But if you don’t have updated blog posts, links to FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace or any other online portal, you’re a microscopic needle in a haystack the size of Montana. You simply MUST have content on other portals pointing back to your main site or your rankings with fall and fail.

You’re allowed to have fun. In my work at (I’m VP, Business Development) and in interviewing people for my book, I find a lot of dread associated with potentially utilizing new media: What will people say about us? How can we control the message? Well let me ask you something and be honest with yourself–did you ever control the message? Really? Did you put your hand over somebody’s mouth at a party if the dissed your brand? No. You inserted yourself in the conversation and tried to point out how your company could improve a situation or how they’d benefit somebody if they had a misconception. The same tactic applies online, but you have to find the places where people are talking about you and respectfully offer your thoughts without pitching. (If you’re not using them yet, go immediately to Google Alerts and type in key phrases about your company to “ego surf” and learn where people are talking about you. Then you can go and write/call/whatever letting people know you’re from the company they’re talking about. If you listen first and offer helpful advice, odds are the next time you ego surf you’ll read about people saying they were amazed you spoke with candor and honesty and now they’re more likely to buy from you–and that’s fun!)

John C. Havens is the co-author of Tactical Transparency: How Leaders Can Leverage Social Media to Maximize Value and Build their Brand. You can hear his interviews with people on transparency at If you’d like to be interviewed or know someone who would, you can shoot him an email at: johnhavens AT blogtalkradio DOT com. He also welcomes comments/thoughts on how you and your company are gaining advantages by being real with your brand.

You can find out more about Tactical Transparency, and take advantage of a special offer with Fast Company magazine, at