By Josh Lowy

We’re living in the era of fake news. Politicians peddle headlines and half-truths. We’re told we can’t trust the media, unless it’s this network or that newspaper and then we’re expected to take it as gospel.

When the world divides itself into camps, communication breaks down. Everyone loses, even the liars. And what is true in national politics is true at the local level — even within the confines of your own business. Too many companies avoid open, equitable communication. How do we address the fake news not just as a society, but in business as well?

Risk of Losing Customers

Nothing puts a brand at risk like customers losing trust in what should be a solid brand relationship. Facebook has taken a major hit in the last year, apologizing for data scrapes before congressional hearings and the court of public opinion. Sixty-six percent of respondents in a recent major survey declaring they’ve lost trust in Facebook’s management of their personal data. Imagine 2/3 of your company’s users declaring your behavior suspect and unreliable. That’s a devastating, blow to brand reputation to say nothing of the damage to in-house morale.

Yet trust is rarely abandoned in a single swoop. Often a company slips into a culture of half-truths through a slow drip. It happens when siloed department heads don’t know how or when to communicate with one another. Teams cling to individual rather than company-whole missions. A top-down, hierarchical approach to leadership means staff is disseminated information in an arbitrary need-to-know fashion. As a result, everyone feel either carelessly or purposefully left out of the loop. A team that badly communicates with each other inevitably means erratic messaging with the customer.

The Solution of Clarity

The only antidote to half-truths is total transparency. If suspicion and paranoia leak from the company water cooler, one must turn off the tap. Half-truths and spin breed a fetid atmosphere that today’s savvy customers can sense from miles away. And when customers begin to doubt that a company is serving their best interests, they will turn their backs in search of a safer, more reliable relationship. How can a business turn the concept of clarity into a cultural nonnegotiable?

First a company must truly value transparency — because who’s going to say they don’t admire the straightforward approach in theory — by treating it as an actionable, everyday, every transaction imperative. It’s a top down, 360-process that demands total buy-in.

The idea of cross-functional collaboration shouldn’t be intimidating. It doesn’t have to involve a total change of personality or approach. There are tools available that immediately rope everyone at the company into the conversation. Nobody needs to felt left out or unheard at a meeting. No directives go unheeded. There are ways to leave a meeting where people respect not just their specific job at hand, but those of their peers.

Together in Truth

Imagine an atmosphere in which ideas and arguments are shared thoughtfully and for the greater good. Imagine a culture that demanded higher standards of conversation. It begins at home. Not just your house, but your company too. When you make sure the people there are listening to each other, and when you tell them the whole story, communication unifies once more.

Josh Lowy is the CEO of Hugo.

Business stock photo by Yury Zap/Shutterstock