Transparency Ideal in Strategic Communication: A Discussion Between Theory and Practice

Niina Hakala

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis examines transparency in strategic communication. Firstly, it is argued that all understanding is socially constructed, thus, language, communication and culture have a profound impact on our way of looking at the world: all constructs are socially co-created. Strategic communication provides the context to the discussion: it is communication conducted in behalf of an organisation aiming to reach certain goals. Transparency is examined theoretically utilising four perspectives: information disclosure, enhanced understanding, communicational process and governing. Transparency entails those perspectives at its core, and is defined to be a theoretical ideal aiming for open communication and enhanced understanding between organisations and stakeholders by empowering the stakeholders with relevant information, that can lead to holding organisations accountable. Moreover, transparency is a stakeholder-driven concept entailing stakeholders’ power over organisations, thus, a stakeholder perspective is taken to examine transparency in practice. The Panama Papers data leak provides the empirical case to research how stakeholders define transparency in practice. Transparency is present in the case in the demands for the organisations to be more transparent, and in the reporting of the case conducted without publishing the original data. The transparency demands are analysed from both writers’ and readers’ perspectives. In practice, transparency entails disclosing relevant information and open communication, and an ethical perspective, thus, responding transparency demands requires more than disclosing merely legally required information. Furthermore, the practical definitions of transparency are context-related: the framework created to ensure transparent managerial practices differs from the general stakeholder understanding of transparency. Transparency entails disclosing relevant information and communicating it openly in a manner that enhances understanding and empowers stakeholders, but the importance of those core dimensions is bound to context. Hence, ultimately transparency is a social construct continuously negotiated: there is no single generalizable definition for it as the concept reflects the context it is discussed in.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages118
SupervisorsSteffen Blaschke