“Transparency” has been a buzzword of sorts the last year. It’s popping up in the news more. It’s a focal point for social platforms right now. And, most importantly, it’s top of mind with consumers.

That came out in spades in a recent Sprout Social report which found that millennials ranked brands–not politicians, surprisingly–as the number one group they’d like to see be more transparent. What’s more, the study found 55% of respondents said brands are only “somewhat transparent” on social channels.

What topics demonstrate a brand’s transparency on social? Admitting mistakes and honest responses to customer questions topped the list. On the other hand, what do brands do that demonstrates a LACK of transparency? Respondents noted withholding information and ignoring customer and employee questions were of primary concern.

Are you sensing a trend here? I am–and it centers on public relations.

PRs have a huge opportunity to jump back in to the social media fray and support their brand partners around this evolving transparency issue. Why do I say “jump back in”? Because marketing seems to have taken over a lot of social media brand accounts.

After all, isn’t what this report is hinting at? It’s certainly been what we’ve seen with social over the past few years. Social media has really become the best brand ad platform in the world. And marketers are steering the ship.

But, what consumers are really telling us in reports like this is they want more honesty.

They want more authenticity.

Essentially, they don’t want more advertising!

Back to PR and the opportunity at hand.

PR folks are in a unique position to address all those concerns by more actively teaming up with their marketing partners. PR is a discipline rooted in honesty, transparency and relationship-building. All things consumer want more of from brands. And, all things that social media was “designed” to help facilitate.

PR teams can help their marketing partners in several ways:

  • Strategy – PR teams should be in the room when discussing social strategy. For starters, because there always needs to be a “bullshit” sensor in every room, and typically PR folks play this role (as in, “nope, that sounds like a horrible idea for a Facebook post!:).
  • Content – We’ve read report after report on the deluge of hidous marketing-driven content being shared by brands on today’s social web. PRs can bring a richer content game to the fold by recommending and developing content that is helpful, interesting, or in some cases, entertains. It can’t ALWAYS be about selling, people.
  • Influencer marketing – The marketers have gotten their fingers in this pie, too, recently. And, as a result, what’s happened? Instagram pods (haven’t heard of these lovely things–read this post). And, a complete lack of disclosure by influencers (hello, FCC!). Now, this isn’t always the marketing team’s fault, but any PR person worth their salt would be in every influencers ear about disclosing the moment those posts go live.

photo credit: woodleywonderworks not quite clear on the concept via photopin (license)