Radically Transparent

By Deane Barker on August 4, 2008

I was probably the wrong audience for this book, but that doesn’t make it any less good for someone else.

Radically Transparent” is about two things: (1) becoming all Web 2.0-ish with blogs, social networks, etc., and (2) managing your online reputation, or that of your company.

Given that I work in this environment every day, there were sections that didn’t reveal much. I know what a blog is, what a social network is, etc. But for someone from a traditional PR background who really needs to get up-to-speed on this, the book presents a good survey of how to make your company as transparent and accessible as possible.

Scattered throughout the book are case studies of things that went wrong in PR-land on the Web. The book starts off with Jeff Jarvis’s series of “Dell Hell” posts back in 2005, and moves on to things like the iPhone price drop, the JetBlue fiasco, etc. These are all PR messes that likely wouldn’t have happened without the Web.

One of the central points of the book is that a lot of good or even neutral coverage of your company or name will offset the inevitable bad coverage. In this sense, blogs and social networks help to “pump up” your non-negative search results, thus displacing what you don’t want in there.

In addition, the book pushes on the idea of being totally honest and open, and trying not to be corporate. A lot of what was in here reminded me of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” of five or six years ago.

Finally, the book ends with a really good chapter presenting a checklist of ways to prepare for the inevitable problem. You need to have a good monitoring system so you can spot brewing PR problems before they explode, and you have to a team in place to respond to issues when they happen.

So, like I said, not a great book for me. But if you’re in marketing or PR, there’s a lot of insight here worth reading.

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  1. Cluetrain came out almost 10 years ago if you can believe it!

    I think Dell has made a remarkable turnaround on engaging with their customers with social media since Jarvis bloodied them with their own poor support performance. They turned a big negative into a bigger positive.

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