Are Your Communications Transparent? Today’s Informed Consumer Knows How To Smell A Rat


Knowledgeable digital age denizens don’t pay attention to anyone selling a can of snake oil. While there’s no shortage of naïve consumers willing to buy the latest so-called miracle cure or life-changing kitchen gadget, many of today’s web-savvy generation are hip to gimmicks and empty promises. With so much information being hurled at them, they’ve become increasingly more discerning.

That’s great news for inherently honest communicators… but it also means now that we have to go extra lengths to prove we’re on the up and up… and not a carnival barkers out to swindle. You may be entirely straight forward, but nowadays the onus is on you to prove to that you’re upfront and legit. It’s about establishing a relationship with your customer, and showing them, not telling them, that you warrant their consideration.

Put a Human Face on it

While doing research on real estate opportunities in Central America, I came across two organizations with very different marketing styles that perfectly illustrate my point on the do’s and do not’s of transparent communication. One company, Viva Tropical,, comprehends the need to put a human face on their marketing and the importance of demonstrating transparency. Viva Tropical is a growing real estate investment operation co-based in Costa Rica and Panama owned by two surfer/explorer guys with big personalities. The other company, let’s call them Shyster’s Tropics (I don’t welcome a law suit so wont use their real name), is the polar opposite. US-based Shyster’s relies on old school marketing approaches devoid of personality. Their editor “signs” each communication, but we never find out who she really is. She’s just a figurehead to readers. But what’s worst than their lack of personal appeal is that their messages are plastic and make them come across like used car salespeople.

Read through Josh and Park’s articles on their site. Check out this video they produced introducing themselves:   They offer a virtual library of facts, figures and real life experiences of relocation to and investment in the tropics. Yes, they write about lower prices, proximity to the beach, and other benefits of the ex-pat lifestyle… but they also warn readers about many of the pitfalls and challenges people find when they chuck their US or European identities to move south. In a call with Josh, he told me point blank that living in Central America is not for everyone. His comments, made in writing and in person, make him trustworthy. His communications are consistently transparent. Who would you rather do business with?

The Comparison

Here’s how Viva Tropical stacks up against Shyster’s:

  • Prose: Shyster’s content is written like a travel brochure for a junket to Atlantic City. Overly flowery language captivates some, but turns off educated consumers. Viva “talks to us” in real language. They manage to pique a visitor’s interest in the adventure of life in the tropics, but don’t come off like cheap salesmen.
  • After a few minutes on their site, we know enough about Josh and Park to believe they are not just business people but real guys on a mission. They are likeable. Shyster’s speaks in a corporate tone that creates a distance between consumer and provider.
  • Honesty. Every day is sunny in Shyster’s Latin America. Viva Tropical’s world, however, is a bit more realistic. Josh told me he wants potential clients to comprehend the down-sides of life south of the border before they buy… he doesn’t want to keep running into them on the street and have them complain to him. Who can you complain to at Shyster’s if they screw you over?
  • Gimmicks. “Want extra income?” Shyster’s writes, “No problem!” They offer hour-long seminars they say can teach you how to make $2,000 a month as a freelance photographer or travel writer.   This is unsavory to me. Photography and writing are two difficult ways to make a living (trust me as a communicator with 25 years experience I know)! Shyster’s seems to be misleading potential customers down a path to making them believe they can make income overseas. Viva doesn’t offer any gimmicks to dupe folks into signing on the dotted line.




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