“We can’t say that!” Why not?

I’ve been doing communications, in-house and as a consultant, for more years than I like to admit.

With nearly every client, and certainly with every in-house gig, I remember the meetings in which we’d sit with senior leaders and map out a plan to distract attention from what was really going on in the company.

Occasionally one of us on the communications team would suggest: “Why don’t we just tell people some of what’s going on?”

“We can’t say that!” was always the answer. There would be a general round of patronizing chuckles, gasps of terror, or snorts of scorn (the reaction depended on the organization) before everyone got back to the business of obfuscation.

Curt Woodward, writing today for Xconomy Seattle, describes how SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin is breaking that tradition by writing publicly about what he’s doing and thinking as he seeks investment capital for his company. Fishkin’s observations are interesting, and Woodward has made them even more so by consolidating all of Fishkin’s blog posts and other communications using Storify, an online tool for stitching together web-based information.

I don’t think that every company or organization is ready for transparency about its plans, nor are certain issues (such as personnel changes or litigation) appropriate to discuss publicly. But I do think transparency is a trend, and, increasingly, something business partners and consumers will come to expect.

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