Technology & Innovation

For Tech Companies, Accountability Should Be PR Priority #1

Katelyn Hertel

April 12th, 2021

Tech Accountability

At a time of widespread political polarization, one of the few issues Democrats and Republicans have been able to agree on is their growing distrust of Big Tech. 

Studies have shown that most Americans are concerned with how tech companies use their personal data and they think major tech companies have too much power and influence. Organizations like the Center for Humane Technology have formed to call for real, systemic change to how tech companies function, while communities like New_ Public have begun reimagining what our online world can, and should, look like to be more inclusive.

The negative perception of Big Tech has far-reaching consequences that impact many businesses beyond the handful of companies we all commonly associate with Big Tech. Increasingly, we’re seeing tech companies serving every industry and of every size facing greater scrutiny. 

When it comes to building back consumer trust, all tech companies have a role to play—and it starts by clearly communicating that your company hears the calls for accountability and is acting on them. Whether you’re in the midst of a PR crisis or are proactively taking steps to address an issue in your company, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Own Responsibility

This is not the time to spin. Whether your company released a buggy product, experienced a service outage or suffered a data breach, it’s important to admit when an error has been made. Few things go further in building trust back with consumers than owning responsibility for a mistake. 

Set Measurable Goals

By creating and sharing actionable steps to address an issue, you set a clear path forward for your company. Whether your goals are measured by deadlines or another success metric, making an action plan helps to clearly define what and how your company is improving while indicating your company’s resolve to change by making sure you can be held accountable by both internal and external stakeholders. Without any performance metrics, you could find your company or product bestowed with the dreaded title, “vaporware.”

Partner with a Trusted Expert

Finding a partner with a strong reputation as an expert in the area you are looking to address will be critical in your company’s journey to accountability. This partner could be an industry analyst, a watchdog organization, an academic in the field or another respected expert. They can act as both an advisor, providing guidance as your company creates its measurable goals and moves forward, and as a third-party validator once you’re ready to publicly share your work.

Be Transparent

When trying to protect your company’s reputation, the first instinct is often to withhold information. But in reality, the more transparent you are—whether that’s with a reporter, your customer base or other stakeholders—the more likely you are to build trust and respect for your brand. If you’re cagey with the details, you’ll have less impact when announcing how much you’ve improved, which can also demoralize employees. Tech is constantly evolving, and it’s okay to backtrack, pivot and try new things that don’t always result in immediate success. 

Our Technology & Innovation PR team has worked with dozens of tech companies to thread the needle and land on appropriate, transparent and clear messages to articulate their successes, commitments and visions for the future. What is clear in each case is that when companies hold themselves accountable and back up their words with actions, their communications—and by extension, their reputations—soar.