In a promotional video for South by Southwest 2014 (SXSW), organisers talk about how fast transparency and privacy concerns have risen to top of mind for conference attendees.

One organiser claims that back in 2012, only two sessions dealt with privacy and that, in 2014, close to 30 sessions were being held on the subject.

Take a quick look at the SXSW 2015 Interactive agenda and we can see 17 sessions specifically on privacy are already planned.

Transparency and privacy are clearly different concepts, however it’s important to consider both at the same time – they work together hand in hand.

In this blog post, we will look at both concepts from an organisational sustainability point of view. Transparency will refer to institutional or organisational transparency, and privacy will refer to the safe keeping of readers and subscribers’ personal data that an organisation collects for the purpose of doing business or the data collected during the various interactions between said readers with its products and services. (In future posts, we will explore the concepts of personal transparency and institutional privacy.)

Organisational transparency: a corporate expectation – not an individual one

Organisational transparency is in high demand. Nowadays, various stakeholders expect a greater level of transparency from companies they invest in, support, or buy products or services from.

Transparency is often considered a corporate obligation but not so for individuals. Individuals have the right to withhold private information, and, in Europe and North America, organisations must protect individuals’ personal information they hold. Again, transparency and privacy must be considered together.

At an international level, one of the largest manifestations of corporate transparency is the voluntary disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions via the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Many financial bodies are now also requiring large organisations to add transparency to their environmental, social impacts, as well as report on their corporate governance (for example, see the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices) through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports. Most large organisations have one, although few from the news media industry. The Guardian is a good example of one in our industry. 

Organisational transparency: an editorial/advertising example

Today’s readers and subscribers demand a level of organisational transparency that requires a heightened level of effort. From an advertising and editorial perspective, readers demand clear delineation about what is paid content and what is produced by the newsroom.

Recently, The Globe and Mail went through the exercise of adding transparency to what has traditionally been called advertorials. A team representing advertising and editorial was put together to answer a call for more advertorial-type requests from advertisers and added transparency for the readers.

The outcome of this work effort was a new nomenclature and additional notifications with the articles. The image below reflects the print execution of this endeavour and shows a new identification of such paid content (sponsor content), an editorial box clearly highlighting who produced the content, and a separate URL for hosting such paid content separated from the other editorial work.

Corporate transparency and privacy protection are both crucial to master in order to thrive while maintaining that vital brand trust so many news organisations enjoy today.

Our next post will dive into the challenges and opportunities of acquiring and safeguarding personal data.