Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Busted for being opaque

Corporate Responsibility Magazine shines a light on the Russell 1,000's least transparent companies.

The Black List details 30 companies for whom zero points of relevant data can be found to compare their transparency to that of colleagues on the Russell 1000 list of large-cap firms.

These companies are saying nada about things like climate change performance or broader environmental performance. The issue is bigger than the 30 companies on the list. 161 companies did not even have basic disclosure about their employee benefit programs.

The magazine approaches this situation from a corporate governance/investor relations perspective. Their audience is the corporate executive charged with maintaining good "corporate responsibility."

In the past, avoiding disclosure may have been a smart way to dodge controversy, oversight or unwelcome attention. Now choosing to not be transparent has its own cost. Remember that the next time you venture into an Abercrombie & Fitch store.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Yelp steps into the sunshine

Yelp just announced two substantial moves to eliminate the controversy brewing around alleged linkage between retailer advertising support and review quality.

The company is making it possible to see how their review filter works and will even show you the reviews that have been filtered. They are also eliminating the "Favorite Review" feature. Why you see what you see on Yelp just got a lot more transparent.

In retrospect, these changes are actually product improvements. Better information and less fog obscuring motives. For a company built on the idea of using consumer feedback as a weapon to reward and punish marketers, it's ironic they took this long to act on the input they were receiving themselves.

Our natural reaction as passionate, competitive marketers is often to try and argue with the public when we feel they misunderstand our company or actions. That knee-jerk reaction immediately puts us in an adversarial role with consumers. It's hard to pull out of the ping-pong match once things escalate.

At some point perhaps Yelp realized the angry hoards might have a point - maybe they could actually improve their product by making it more transparent. On the other hand, Yelp may view these recent steps as necessary concessions - conceding they could never argue the social media beast into submission. Either way, they made the right decision. Chalk one up for the meritocracy.