New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shed more light on his gubernatorial activities on Thursday, Sept. 22, by launching a Web site to post his daily schedule of official events from as far back as January. While the site only makes available the governor's official schedule—keeping unofficial and personal events off the docket—it's a pronounced effort toward greater openness and transparency.
Time will tell, though, whether this kind of transparency is sustained when Cuomo is in full crisis mode.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the administration has been resistant at times to reporter inquiries about the inner workings of the administration and agencies. Last month, The Buffalo News published an editorial accusing the Cuomo administration of concealing details about agency budget cuts. As of Thursday, the administration is disclosing "all official events" held by the governor, including meetings with staff, legislative leaders and lobbyists.
Seth Linden, executive VP at Dukas Public Relations, says it's a smart move for Cuomo, and that it's always good to be as transparent as possible without violating security concerns. "It's important to keep building a rapport with media and the public, and it's part of good government," says Linden.
The real test with openness and transparency, says Linden, will come when there's a need to be open and transparent. "For the Cuomo administration—which seems to be upstanding so far—and for any administration, there will be a crisis at some point, and their level of openness and engagement at that time will determine how much they actually believe in being transparent. It's always during a crisis when a company or government organization can either shine or fall flat," says Linden.
For PR pros, Linden warns that those who are guarded and secretive in their communications with the public and the media will have a difficult time convincing them of their openness when they need to most. "It's council we give to our hedge fund clients—we tell them to be open with investors and the public as much as possible because there may come a day when your openness is questioned, and you'll need to have trust to fall back on."
Linden has noticed a slight increase in overall government transparency, noting that the White House now releases lists of people that President Obama meets with, and that anyone can access his public press schedule. "It's not unique, but I suspect it will be a growing trend for politicians. As time goes on, schedules will be expected to be public domain, and their release will have less news value."
And while a new baseline of transparency will become the standard, Linden says the true question is how administrations handle themselves at a time when there needs to be disclosure.
"PR practitioners on both the corporate and agency sides should do everything they can to have a constantly open relationship with media and to engage them, and we should always try to have the media think we're credible and honest, even when fighting over records and schedules," says Linden.