Welcome to the Age of Transparency

Democrats and Republicans alike watched Tuesday’s historic inauguration with a delicate combination of excitement, fear, hope and skepticism. Perhaps hope was the most widely publicized emotion, with the media sinking its teeth into every possible euphemism for change we can believe in. But alongside this hope was—and still is—fear and skepticism, as Americans know that, like him or not, Obama is our only chance for finding the light at the end of this tunnel.

Well, for the business world at least, Mr. President made quite a first impression, using his first full day on the job to impose aggressive new rules on government transparency and ethics—a move he called “a clean break from business as usual.” Indeed, this has significant and immediate implications on businesses, which are anticipating Obama’s reign to tighten regulations and, of course, demand more transparent communications with all stakeholders.

What does this mean for PR professionals?  In theory, it should mean that very little has changed, as transparency is among the most profound communications commandments. But in reality, we all know that this is wishful thinking. Crises that stem from lies, fraud and corporate malfeasance are ubiquitous, and communications executives are the ones who are left to pick up the pieces.

Will Obama’s policy changes formalize the code of conduct that communicators have been pushing for ages? Or will they just do more to undercover the rotten underbelly of “business as usual?”

By Courtney Barnes