How important is transparency? – What a PR can learn from a crisis caused by Vietnam National Television

This morning, we had a class about transparency in an organization or a company and a role of a Public Relations practitioner, and this made me think about “to what extent an organization should be transparent” or “how openly an organization should be when they were asked by journalists or when crisis occurred.”

There is one perfect example that has recently arisen in my country, which I think it’s the perfect case study for this transparency issue. It happened between our National television and one YouTube user. Last week, YouTube just announced that they had to ban permanently the YouTube channel of Vietnam Television because the channel just transgressed against some copyright issues by illegally downloading and using the video clip recorded by one YouTube user without his permission. Of course this made front-page news (The National Television, really?)

Theoretically, a PR should have informed all the staffs and managers that no one are allowed to make any statements before the press release was sent out in order to prevent this issue from going further and uncontrollably. But they did not do that.

This led to some unexpected status on social media about this issue made by some senior editor (there was even some warning from her to the video owner). One thing led to another. The unofficial status of the editor received really bad feedbacks from the society because of her arrogant attitude. But even worse, until now, no statement or press release has been sent out to explain to the public about this (or at least to say sorry). Is this a transparent way of running a TV station – downloading illegally some clips on YouTube without permission, broadcasting them and then saying nothing when busted?


Talking about transparency, Thomson (CIPR, 2016) has written in his article “Are you ready for the new era of transparency?” that “organisations often believe that decisions can be taken behind closed doors and that employees, customers or other stakeholders will be content to follow. That is not the case”.

Of course it is no longer the case.

In this morning class, my lecturer cited Quirke (2008) in which he said: “management credibility and trust are under attack from confused and poorly integrated communications.” This is absolutely right in this case, when the slow reaction of the boards to crisis has led to unnecessary chaos in the society, especially on social media, which is easy and fast to be shared.

According to PRmoment and the Effective Communication Index 2014 by agency MHP Communications, “85 percent of global consumers see honesty and transparency as crucial if an organization is to communicate effectively.” This was also stressed by the CEO of MHP Communications, in which he stated that pressure for business to be open and transparent has been growing throughout 2013. So does this mean that our National television station is going…ehm…backward?


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