May 28, 2013

When we refer to candor, we focus a lot on interpersonal communication. Yet, candor also has great relevance to external communications, including online and social media.

Dave Kerpen, co-founder and CEO of Likeable Media, advises Verizon and a host of other companies on how to leverage social media so that those organizations can become more “transparent, engaged, responsive, likeable.”  I heard Kerpen speak at the recent FORTUNE Leadership Summit in Orlando and he stated that being transparent – fully open and honest about yourself, your company and your mission – is one of those key concepts that help organizations become more likeable online.

Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business, shared this story about Verizon and how the company turned a social media mess into a rave review. A customer voiced his displeasure in a post on Facebook:

“Hey VERIZON why won’t you give me my money back!!! …We call you every month and the problem is never fixed… You guys suck!!! And a lawsuit may be in your near future. Have a great day you bunch of crooks!!!!”

Kind of funny to read, right? Unless you are Verizon and then, it’s kind of scary. Facebook, that increasingly influential outlet, has the potential to take one comment and make it national news. But Verizon handled it like an online pro, showing total transparency (candor!!) in their response. First, they listened, being receptive to the customer’s brutally honest comments. Then they apologized and next, they responded promptly. Without actually fixing anything yet, they were already beginning to fix the relationship by simply acknowledging the customer and his frustrations, and offering a sincere apology. Ultimately, they resolved the issue with customer. Here’s the customer’s next Facebook post about Verizon:

“Had a Regional Manager call us today and went over the bill [and] corrected our bill. Thank you!! And for the Record. I love the FIOS service and the Extreme internet package makes me jump up and down every time I download anything or play a game. Thank you Verizon FIOS.”

Whew! But this didn’t happen on accident. Kerpen and his firm support Verizon to manage their customer relations in the social media realm to a great outcome.

This teaches me that candor is not reserved solely for in-person or e-mail connections – it builds success when applied to online communications and social media. The candor I encourage in the boardroom is also very applicable to the relationships we are building with our customers via social and traditional media, branding, and public relations. My takeaway is this: candor can and should be everywhere. From your weekly morning meetings to your daily tweets, from your annual shareholders meeting to your Facebook posts, candor is critical.