Clarity is the New Grey

by Dan Hutson on February 22, 2009

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photo by jurvetsen

Katya Andresen had a great short post on the importance of transparency a few weeks ago. While she’s speaking primarily to nonprofit marketing folk, the lesson is equally applicable to all organizations. Without transparency it’s difficult to build trust, especially in today’s environment.

But if transparency is the new black, I’d argue that clarity is the new grey. Even those who think they’re being transparent frequently fog things up with jargon, unnecessarily convoluted language and dazzling displays of numbers that only serve to confuse.

People are hungry for clarity. A recent Siegel + Gale survey found that 84 percent of Americans say they’re more likely to trust companies that use jargon-free, plain English in communications. Three-quarters believe that complexity and lack of understanding played a huge role in our current financial situation. And 79 percent think it’s an important enough issue that President Obama should “mandate that clarity, transparency and plain English to be a requirement of every new law, regulation and policy.”

Your organization probably doesn’t have a global director of simplification like Siegel + Gale does, so it may be that the job falls on your shoulders.

I’m a big fan of transparency. I think it’s essential to developing solid, trustworthy relationships with your stakeholders (customers, clients, employees, donors). But I’m an even bigger fan of clarity. You really can’t have one without the other.

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