New Norm | Transparency

“No more secrets Marty.”

The defining line in the 1992 movie Sneakers where the prize is a code breaker (“No. It’s THE code breaker”) capable of breaking into any computer system and ensuring there are never any more secrets.

Since the dawn of time individuals, governments, and businesses have worked hard to protect their secrets, and find those of others. And since the dawn of time, the greatest asset on both sides of this battle has been wetware – people. It is people who are the agents, the traitors, the decoders, and those whose secrets are shared.

New technology is always introduced to secure, or crack, the code but one of the most powerful tools is the social acceptance of keeping or protecting secrets. When is it acceptance to steal or share, and when isn’t it?

Would the president’s disabilities be acceptable to share?

Today, sharing every challenge facing a world leader is the norm, but during the 12 years Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House:

“In keeping with social customs of the time, the media generally treated Roosevelt’s disability as taboo. News stories did not mention it, and editorial cartoonists, favorable and unfavorable, often showed the president with normal mobility. According to famed broadcaster David Brinkley, who was a young White House reporter in World War II, the Secret Service actively interfered with photographers who tried to take pictures of Roosevelt in a wheelchair or being moved about by others.”1

Such interference by the secret service today would cause more of an uproar than the actual story.

Somewhere between John F. Kennedy (who was rumored to have many affairs during his presidency) and Richard Nixon (who was impeached in 1974, 11 years after Kennedy’s assassination) a Janus Moment occurred (likely Watergate) and the press corp. – and the country ­– expected much more transparency into the life, and actions, of the president.

The social constraint on the acceptability of sharing information appears to still to be on a decline. Wikileaks was born December 2006 and serves as a poster child for the ease with which information can be shared from even the most protective of organizations.

The desire of Janus Dialogs is not to adjudicate the appropriateness of any trend, but to bring it to the forefront for consideration by the caretaker for the shared moments in time we call experience marketing.

As such, with an increasing technical ability and reach, and decreasing social constraint, what impact might this rise in transparency have on events? Consider:

  • Measurement | event measurement is often closely held by those who host the program. Specific results (often the best) are shared to prove the relevance and success of the program, and to attract attendees and exhibitors for the next year. How will you deal with the potential sharing of data in all its good and bad? Will you protect it more? Demand to see more? Open it to all?
  • Event Secrets | Mom always said, “don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about on the front page of the paper.” Did you make any deals with exhibitors, the organizer, presenters, or keynoters that you would rather not share? It may be a matter of time before this is shared to all. How might this change the way you conduct event business?
  • Speaker “unauthorized” Bios | what would a background search of all your speakers reveal, and how would the release of this information impact your organization and/or event?

Can you think of other aspects and elements of marketing and events that could be impacted by the rise of transparency?


  1. […] There are many small(er) news items that support or lend context to the new norms Janus Dialogs follows. As such, I’ll be gathering these together into a single running update. Below are the updates for Transparency. […]

  2. […] over simplify the issue of transparency – there are two extremes. One that hides a truth; the other that reveals too much. And the […]