Directness and Transparency in Marketing – a Vital Interdependence

blank_window_VERTICALAuthor and consultant Lynn Serafinn explains how Directness and Transparency work together in our marketing, affecting how our audience receives our message. 

In The 7 Graces of Marketing, the 4th and 5th of the ‘Graces’ are Directness and Transparency, respectively.

Directness is described as being the antidote for ‘The Deadly Sin of Distraction’ in marketing. Distraction is when we use diversionary techniques to ‘hook’ our audience without necessarily providing any useful information. Distraction is often subtle in its appearance, as it can be packaged in very entertaining and creative ways that appeal to our senses or make us laugh. For this reason, many people fail to recognise it as a ‘Deadly Sin’.

Transparency is described as being the antidote for ‘The Deadly Sin of Deception’ in marketing. Deception is sometimes more obvious than Distraction, especially if it shows up as out-and-out false claims and dishonesty. But even Deception can be, well, deceptive, as it can often be masked by language, statistics or images that ‘look’ true, but actually are not.

These are the ‘official’ definitions of Directness and Transparency as they appear in our 7 Graces Project charter:

DIRECTNESS – to embrace simplicity and straightforwardness in our communication

TRANSPARENCY – to express who we really are and what we value most in both personal and professional life

Just as the Deadly Sins of Distraction and Deception are often misunderstand (or missed altogether), I’ve also found that many people do not understand the distinction between these two Graces, often defining the qualities of one as those the other. Some of that I attribute to the fact that there was less detail in the chapter on Directness than many of the other Graces. Since publishing the book in 2011, I’ve tried to address this by writing many articles expanding upon all the Graces, including Directness, as my own awareness and understanding of them has grown.

But I believe the confusion between Directness and Transparency is also due to the fact that they are intricately woven together and dependent upon each other for their existence. Without Directness, our best attempts at Transparency have no effect; without Transparency, all the Directness in the world will contribute nothing very meaningful.

Today, I’m going to attempt to explain both the difference and the interdependence of these two pivotal Graces using some images I’ve made in Photoshop, hoping that a picture does indeed speak 1000 words about these very subtle qualities. As we explore this, we’ll also look at how the two Graces impact the quality of our personal and professional communications, and how awareness of these Graces is vital to bringing an ethical foundation to our marketing and business dealings in general.

No Directness. No Transparency.

window1-noD-noT_CROPPED

I’m using the metaphor of a window to represent the relationship between ourselves (or our businesses), the way we communicate and the way we are seen and understood by others, whether in marketing or in life in general.

Window 1 is a depiction of what our communication is like when we are neither direct nor transparent. I often call Directness the ‘no bullshit grace’. When we communicate in a non-direct way, we tend to use hype, humour and other diversionary methods to ‘cover up’ what we are really saying. When we behave this way in personal communications, it makes it difficult for people to see what’s inside, just as it’s difficult to see what’s on the other side of the glass in this window.

Similarly, when we use diversionary or distractive methods in our marketing, such as sex, humour and over-blown hype and language, we are just piling ‘dirt’ on the ‘window’ of our business, making it difficult—if not impossible—for our audience to see the essence of our company, service and products. Unfortunately, the vast majority of advertising today is full of this kind of ‘dirt’, making for very poor relationships between consumers and companies who do not practice Directness.

The ‘dirt’ of the Deadly Sin of Distraction (which prevents Directness from happening) is caused by many factors. When I work with small independent business owners, lack of Directness can arise from fear, doubt or self-judgement. It can also arise from social conditioning (as I discussed in an earlier article called ‘The Cultural Communication Gap

As companies grow, these kinds of influences can evolve (or devolve) into out-and-out dishonesty—the Deadly Sin of Deception. While having their roots in the same kinds of fears that small, independent business owners may have, we are no longer just ‘covering up’ our window, but switching off the light inside—the light of Transparency.

Transparency is the amount of light that is shining in the room behind the window pane. Even if a window were covered with dirt, if there were a bright enough light shining behind it, we would see some sort of faint image from the other side (we’ll look at this in Window 3). But with no light inside (no Transparency), and dirt on the outside (no Directness), we cannot see what’s inside, no matter how hard we try.

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So, when a company uses Distraction marketing AND does not allow the essence of the company to be seen in their marketing, there is no way their marketing can build connection and trust with their audience, or enable their audience to make informed, intelligent decisions.

Directness without Transparency

window3-D-noT_CROPPEDIn Window 2, we’ve cleaned off all the dirt, but the light in the room is still switched off. As a communication style, this is when we are comfortable (if not assertive about) expressing our opinions based upon facts or logic, but there is a disconnection between these outward expressions and our feelings or innermost values.

My late father was a great example of this kind of communication. He was extremely vocal about being an atheist. He gave all kinds of intellectual reasons ‘proving’ that there was no God. But only once in all the 47 years I knew him did I ever hear him express his innermost feelings about the subject. He said, ‘If there is such a thing as God, it would be such a vast and incomprehensible power. We’d be like tiny specks in comparison, there’d be no point in trying to understand it or think about it.’

In my experience, this ‘window’ is frequently the default communication style in many corporate teams as well as in academia. Expressing personal feelings or values is seen as ‘unprofessional’ and ‘not objective’. While Directness might be encouraged, Transparency is not. Our lights are encouraged to stay switched off.

When we market our businesses through this ‘window’ of communication, it makes our companies dry and lifeless. Transparency is the soul of who we are as people and as companies. If we do not allow the brilliance of self, values, visions, creativity, etc. to shine through our marketing, our audience will not know who we really are and what we stand for.

Attempting Transparency without Directness

window2-noD-someT_CROPPEDWindow 3 is an example of what our communication style looks like when we are trying to be transparent, but lack the Directness to allow our brilliance to shine clearly. There’s a light shining in the room and we can make out that something is there, but there’s too much dirt on the window to make out exactly what it is.

This is SUCH a common communication style, especially amongst small business owners. Again, the ‘dirt’ on the window typically comes from fear and self-judgement. A person with this communication style ‘feels’ they are being genuine, authentic and transparent, but find they are frequently misunderstood by others. This can be the cause of much frustration, and they don’t understand why people (or their audience) don’t ‘get them’.

I used to be like this when I was younger. I unconsciously used evasive language and second-person perspectives to ‘divert’ my words, while imagining that people could pick up on my ‘implied’ meaning to things. The frustration this made me feel used to make me cry (in private, feeling very sorry for myself) and angry (lashing out at those I believed didn’t understand me).

And in business, the result is much the same—people often believe they are being honest and genuine (i.e., transparent), and cannot understand why that isn’t translating into customers and sales. What they fail to recognise is that the problem isn’t with their Transparency, but with their Directness. Ironically, their lack of Directness often comes from a long history of feeling they have been ‘judged’ by others; but it is this assumption that they will be judged no matter what, that keeps them ‘in the box’ and unable to be direct. In my experience working as a consultant, I’ve seen many ‘sensitive’ people get in the way of their own businesses until they learn this subtle relationship between Transparency and Directness.

Directness and Transparency Together

window4-D-T_CROPPED Window 4, of course, is when the dirt is cleaned from the glass, and the light is shining in the room. This is when BOTH Directness and Transparency are present. Only then can we see the whole picture—its colour, its form, its uniqueness.

When Directness and Transparency are present in our communication, we are not only allowing our essence, values and ideals to be seen, we are also likely to be understood. And when people truly understand us, they tend to trust us. We cease being a mystery to others, and we stop feeling misinterpreted and rejected. People either ‘love us or leave us’ because they are able to make an informed decision about how they feel about us.

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Similarly, being BOTH direct and transparent in our marketing and business makes all the difference. Through this interdependent combination, people ‘get’ what our company is all about. And when they ‘get’ us, the right audience will come to us, understand us and stay loyal to us.

How These Two Graces Impact Our Marketing

The Graces of Directness and Transparency have often been confused primarily because they work together. Just as hydrogen and oxygen fuse together to make a molecule of water, Directness and Transparency fuse together to create CLARITY. Clarity cannot be present without both of these ‘elements’.

In marketing, the ‘Deadly Sins’ of Distraction and Deception are continually fighting against what is most natural—the essence your company. Because they are constantly fighting what is natural, it takes a lot of work and effort to keep them up. We are continually trying to think of new ways to grab people’s attention. We sit behind a façade, often suffering the pain of being misunderstood.

Really, mastering the Graces of Directness and Transparency can make life a whole lot simpler. It’s time to wash the windows and switch on the light.

I hope this explanation of the difference and interdependence between Directness and Transparency was helpful. I’d love to hear your feedback below.

Lynn Serafinn
18th June 2013

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Lynn Serafinn author of The 7 Graces of Marketing

LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.

Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.

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2 Responses to Directness and Transparency in Marketing – a Vital Interdependence

  1. This Grace got my attention more than all the others so far. There’s a further aspect that can be explored here. Most people (affected my societal and cultural conditioning) are actually hard-wired to be dysfunctional in these areas. There is a psycho-spiritual explanation.. Many of us are not connected to our core motivation in life or what makes us tick, or our true calling, or our true self, or whatever term explains the separateness of our selves with source energy. We function in thought, word and deed (with emotions coming before thought) so we have no concept of what it means to express ourselves in thought, word and deed from our true selves, or our ‘light’ as you put it in the article Lynn. This split, in my opinion, is the cause of most of the suffering on earth. In my book The Quantum Heart-space Project, I call it ‘Triniphobia’ – the innate fear of aligning all three aspects of our functioning and living the harmonious alignment of all 3 in our physical reality. There is no wonder then, that this deadly sin is rife, not to say endemic and insidious. As individual marketers, we can address this sin by making sure our every thought, word and action is in alignment with our truth (authenticity). Even for mindful people, this can be a tricky one..we’re all used to using one language with our tribes and communities and another one for our families, say, or those who might not ‘get’ us, for fear of making them uncomfortable. I have lots more to say on this subject but don’t want to spew all over your wall Anyway, brilliant that this one of the Deadly Sins has been named and found out.

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