This week I started work at All About Brands plc, a London-based communications firm, pulling together a social media strategy. The first few days have been fantastic and I’m thrilled to be working with such a great bunch of people on some interesting projects.

One of the reasons I went with AAB plc was its expansion into emerging markets and in particular fast-growing economies like India and the UAE. These regions offer exciting opportunities, especially in terms of social media, when it comes to evangelising openness and transparency.

Reputation laundering

Ironically enough, on the tube home on Monday (my first day in the office), I read an article by Gideon Spanier in the London Evening Standard about the purported role of London’s PR companies in reputation laundering. Okay, so the story has been around for a while now, but I’ve never taken it personally before.

Leading PR firms such as Bell Pottinger and Portland are being called to book for their relationship with authoritarian regimes in countries such as Belarus and Yemen.

Should PR companies refuse to do work with such governments? It’s a tough call, but I would say the wisest words in the piece came from former Number 10 aide, Tim Allen:

“All organisations are professionalising the way they communicate. When governments which have previously been secretive do that, it is not an affront to democracy.

 In many cases, [good communication] is an essential part of that process. And getting good professional ethical advice is part of it as well.”

The new transparency

Ethical advice is one thing. But a good PR should never be seeking to make their client look whiter than white. They should simply help them tell the truth – albeit in a way that helps their client stay in control of the narrative.

When it comes to social media, transparency is everything. If the official corporate line tells one story while employees and stakeholders say something different, it won’t be long before people join the dots.

I’m all too aware that the work I’ve done through Monkeys with Typewriters and associated consultancy has focused on Western democracies. The Middle East in particular, is opening up.

Truth matters to people everywhere.

I’m curious to see how the ideas from my book will translate.

Don’t hold back the tide on social business

Photo: Limmurf (via Flickr)