'Transparency Is a Mindset'

"Leveling with your customers or stakeholders isn't exceptional or special. It's just good business.""Transparency is a mindset, not a strategy," writes blogger Stan Smith. We agree.

In his "pushing social" blog, Smith says, "Your readers deserve to hear it straight. They didn't sign up for spin or false bravado."

Smith is offering advice to bloggers, but the same advice applies to all content marketing or crisis communication. Honesty isn't a strategy; it is a mindset. You either level with customers and stakeholders or try to negotiate the truth.

Southwest Airlines is facing that challenge today of explaining why the pilot of its Flight 4013 landed Sunday night in the Taney County Airport instead of its intended destination, the airport in Branson, Missouri. 

On its website, Southwest Airlines posted a short statement last night after the plane landed at the wrong airport. The statement noted the plane landed safely without injury to any of the 124 passengers or five crew members. The airline added an update today thanking first responders and indicating it had made contact with every passenger individually to apologize, refund their tickets and offer a future travel credit "as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience."

The update also said, "We continue to look into the circumstances that led the pilot in command of Flight 4013 from Chicago Midway to land at the airport several miles from the Branson Airport we serve. We are cooperating with authorities in this investigation." 

The company will have to say more than this, but at least it is talking about what it knows now. That's a good-faith step toward transparency. If it tries to measure what it says to minimize liability, it could lose credibility.

"Saying you're sorry when you screw up isn't exceptional," writes Smith. "Making sure your readers (or customers) know where you stand isn't special. It's just good business."