Freedom of the press strengthens business
Disregarding the truth delegitimizes one’s presence in the market and in society
Hamilton dos Santos
Freedom of the press is one of the fundamental values of democracy, but it also brings prosperity: it has become crucial for the success of business. For a company to grow, its managers must work with reality. There is no better way to achieve legitimacy and also to train entrepreneurs and employees than truthful, published information, open to criticism.
There were times when companies profited from manipulating information. This practice has now become the exception. A company that is not truthful delegitimizes its presence in the market and in society.
Imagine a company that does not consider the social or environmental costs of what it produces. This can result in more damage than gain. While a company must always update its scientific and technological information, it also needs to adhere to the current values of society. Increasingly, abusive behavior or neglect of the environment and governance have negative effects on those that ignore their existence.
The truth emancipates. In business it allows for a more precise calculation of inputs and outputs. It has ethical and economic value.
Not only is this true for the information the company receives to plan its production, but also for what it communicates when marketing its products. There is an old saying, “A lie has no legs.” Anyone who buys a bad product will not return to buy it again. In the age of social media, a bad product is in itself adverse advertising.
For this reason, the “recall” has grown in recent decades. When companies began announcing their mistakes or defective products – from newspapers, such as Folha de Sao Paulo, with its section “Erramos” (We were wrong), to producers of goods and services – there were some who considered this counter productive. Yet, in fact, the contrary is true. The consumer finds it valuable when companies provide information about the risks of their products or services. As a result, these companies are seen as responsible. Their reputations are enhanced and they gain the public’s confidence.
Trust is as important a word in the market environment as it is in democracy. It is just as essential to believe in your supplier, as it is in your elected representative. Human relationships are better when they are built on trust. This is as true in business relationships as it is in personal relationships.
We can look at the example of various economic plans promoted to combat inflation in Brazil between 1986 and 1994. Often, these plans were kept secret and were implemented abruptly to the surprise of many. One in particular, the Collor Plan, had a traumatic effect on the public. The Real Plan, on the other hand, was eventually adopted and was a success. This was because the details of the plan were announced months in advance and hence there were no secrets or surprises. This kind of transparency created a sense of confidence in the government that had not existed in the past.
The free and exempt press generates constructive relationships and allows for honest competition. It is a “win-win” model for companies, suppliers, consumers, communities and citizens. It favors innovation and promotes quality. For this reason, in accordance with its principles and values, the Brazilian Association for Business Communication (Aberje), which has some of the largest companies in Brazil as its members, defends the full freedom of the press, because the concept of freedom is only valid when it incorporates responsibility.
Full Professor at the School of Communication and Arts at USP and President of Aberje (Brazilian Association for Business Communication)
Hamilton dos Santos
Journalist, Masters in philosophy from USP and Director General at Aberje
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