Online Representation: Transparency and Respect


Is your organization transparent and respectful on the social web?

How does transparency and respectfulness factor into an organization’s social representation and reputation?

Organizations in all sectors, whether non-profit, government or for-profit, should carefully plan, monitor and assess their social representation. Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are several popular social tools that groups use in brand communication and representation.  However, how do you ensure that your organization’s online brand representation possesses the positive attributes of transparency and respect? These question were discussed in a recent class conversation I was a part of for the Social Media Graduate Certificate program. Among other topics, my instructor, peers and I talked about the terms transparency and respect. We also engaged in conversations about social web strategies that government agencies can adopt to be more transparent as well as examples of disrespectful and respectful social sharing. The following sections in this blog post integrate some of the ideas brought up in class as well as my own thoughts regarding a couple of the topics assigned (block quoted).

Defining Terms: Transparent and Respect

What does it mean for an organization to be transparent? According to Merriam-Webster, to be transparent is to be honest, open and not secretive. For organizations, especially government agencies, transparency can create relationships of trust between itself and its stakeholders. Online transparency, then, can be a more accessible avenue for sharing information and news with constituents, regulators, critics and other stakeholders and vice versa, a more streamlined avenue for them (stakeholders) to communicate with government agencies. It is also important for organizations to be respectful when communicating through their social media platforms. Respect, as defined in Merriam-Webster, is the feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way. It should also be noted that these terms and what they encompass can change over time depending on public opinion and social policies and structures.

Transparency: Government Agency

Describe three social web strategies you would recommend to a government agency to help it demonstrate to constituents, regulators, critics, etc. that it is committed to transparency.


Online audiovisual sharing is one way a government agency can show that it is committed to transparency.

  1. Audiovisual Sharing: By live streaming and making available recorded video on the social web to public stakeholders (whether on government websites or social platforms such as YouTube) government agencies can transform the process of decision-making into a more transparent one. Constituents, regulators, etc., can “live witness” public meetings that they may not be physically able to attend and help monitor, as well as participate, in the civic conversation. Not only can audiovisual sharing increase public accessibility to government policy-making, but it can establish an avenue of communication and monitoring that is trustworthy, creating more transparency.
  2. Delegating Social Media Accounts: By clearly organizing all government agency social media accounts and clearly defining the type of content that they share and department/area they represent, stakeholders can quickly and efficiently contact, interact and engage with, the appropriate division. Government agencies should not have overlapping or underused social media accounts as information and news can become lost in the sharing process and hinder its efforts at transparency.
  3. Investing Time and Effort in Key Representatives and Public Forums: Government agencies can share information faster and receive more relevant feedback in the short-term by engaging with key representatives in various government areas such as fishing, sport and finance. Effective and influential representatives are ideal for getting information to, and receiving information from, all stakeholders directly affected by any policy and decision-making by a government agency.

Respect: Organizations and Social Platforms

Find and describe two real life examples from an organization or company social platform of a disrespectful post or tweet AND an especially respectful post OR tweet. Explain what the organization should say about the disrespectful post or tweet.

Examples of Disrespectful Social Media Sharing

Social Media Monitoring

Is your organization constantly monitoring? Sharing disrespectful social media content on platforms such as live television shows may ruin your organization’s reputation.

  • Organization: TSN
  • Summary: TSN’s social media platform monitoring failed when it permitted an inflammatory and inappropriate tweet about a Toronto Maple Leaf player to be shown on live television.
  • How should have TSN respond to the disrespectful tweet? Although the tweet was not posted through TSN’s company Twitter account or any affiliates or representatives, TSN was responsible for ensuring that it did not make it on the live scrolling banner feed on its channel. This is an example of an organization integrating social media content into a television platform to enhance fan engagement but in one instance, disrespected a professional athlete in a lapse of social media monitoring. TSN correctly responded by tweeting apologies to all parties offended through their PR Twitter account. TSN should have also ensured that an executive member contacted the player and his organization directly offline via phone to issue a more personal apology, and posted a visible apology at the top of their website after the mistake was caught.
Regardless of whether you are an airline or an organization in another industry, how you react after a crisis can still affect your overall reputation.

Regardless of whether you are an airline or an organization in another industry, how you react after a crisis can still affect your overall reputation.

  • Organization: US Airways (now merged with American Airlines)
  • Summary: US Airways accidentally attached a graphic, inappropriate and disrespectful image in a replying tweet to a customer.
  • How should have US Airways responded to the disrespectful tweet? US Airways ended up apologizing through their official Twitter account and an airline spokesperson. US Airways should have also ensured that the customer who received the disrespectful tweet was apologized to directly by an executive member of the airline and perhaps compensated with a free flight. US Airways should have also placed a written public apology on the homepage of its website for several days after the mistake had been made.

Example of Respectful Social Media Sharing

Our thoughts are with the people of Paris. #PrayForParis #JoeFresh

A photo posted by Joe Fresh (@joefresh) on

  • Organization: Joe Fresh
  • Summary: Joe Fresh posted an image of the Eiffel Tower on its official Instagram account the day after the tragic events in Paris.
  • Why was it respectful? Joe Fresh shared a simple image of one of France’s most iconic landmarks without any logo or brand products in the picture and a simple, straight-to-the-point message: “Our thoughts are with the people of Paris. #PrayForParis #JoeFresh” (@JoeFresh). The company was sensitive to the unfolding situation and did not try to stand out as a brand in the #PrayForParis worldwide conversation.

Thank you for reading my blog on transparency and respect! What are some other examples of disrespectful social media sharing/posts that you have encountered? Please leave a comment below or tweet me at @KatrinaValenton!

***All images are from***

Post written by Katrina Valenton – Friday November 27, 2015

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