In this age of transparency, it seems everyone with a voice in the blogosphere or mainstream media feels compelled to â€œfully discloseâ€ any possible conflict of interest. Here lies the problem: The idea of full disclosure is deceivingly straightforward, yet itâ€™s never unequivocally factual or transparent. In almost every case Iâ€™ve witnessed, full disclosure is subjective. Therefore, itâ€™s an oxymoron.
Hereâ€™s what is factual: so-called full disclosures are nothing more than intent on the part of communicators to reveal what they think, at the time, to be possible conflicts of interest.Â Thatâ€™s a noble deed on the part of an individual or group. But itâ€™s important to remember that human beings are not creatures wired for 100% transparency. That would make life pretty damn inefficientÂ impractical and, probably, impossible. We all have agendas, and to pretend otherwise â€“ through full disclosure â€“ is a fallacy.
At best, full disclosure is an acknowledged attempt to be transparent and reveal conflicts that would make another party distrusting â€“ and, in the process, build trust. But when full disclosure becomes part of our lexicon and a perceived unit of social currency, it becomes subject to abuse. Thatâ€™s why, at worst, full disclosure is an attempt by communicators to make others believe they are trying to be honest when deceit is at the core. In our world, fact probably lies somewhere in between, most of the time.
As a marketer and shaper of reputation, Iâ€™m particularly sensitive to growing and excessive misuse of the term, especially since itâ€™s reached clichÃ© status. I believe transparency is a core tenet of our evolving society. But I also believe the ideal of honesty includes an enlightened citizenship that doesnâ€™t go around self-proclaiming that subjective, attempts at disclosure are actually full and unambiguous. Sometimes they are, but most times they arenâ€™t.
It’s probably best to act in the spirit of full disclosure, but avoid diluting the intention or act by calling attention to the term. As Matthew Hurst said: “research shows that the phrase ‘in fact’ is more used when what follows is opinion; ‘full disclosure’ may be similar!” I agree.
What do you think?
The above morphed into my latest MediaPost column.