Smoke & Mirrors: Transparency should never be attempted

Quick thinking from our hero, plus the help of a Burmese cat, salvages Smokehouse's reputation after it overdoses on transparency.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013


Transparency. I can see right through it. My mother, bless her, had it down to a fine art. Only open the curtains of the room you want the neighbours to see. Rest of the house was a pigsty, obviously. Some idiot in operations (in the interests of transparency, I mean David Eldritch, operations director and wearer of short-sleeved polyester shirts every day of the year, including Christmas party) decided it was a good idea to put details of the Smokehouse supply chain on the web.

Now the public knows that we supply the NHS with surplus bandages from the Burmese Army. Some whining liberal having her sense of humour surgically removed has noticed and is now making a fuss. Rip the bandages off and let her bleed, I say.


CEO Linton Spivey has scheduled a Burma bandages crisis meeting. He's very cross. You can tell because his hairpiece lifts slightly and moves to the front of his head like a departing hovercraft.

He was caught out in the open by a journalist - we encourage him never to leave the office/home without PR minders. It took one question to reveal that he knew nothing about the basic commercial functions of Smokehouse.

He even forgot the phrase we've tattooed on his inner arm: 'A lot of what we're doing is commercially sensitive.' So now he wants a major PR push to heal the damage. I suggested that we get the Burmese Army Band to play in a few hospital wards. Spivey was so angry I had to pretend I was joking.


Burmese Bandage Crisis meeting. Spivey was late so I sat opposite Ollie Quayle, our social media manager. Apparently, he reports to me but as his head never lifts from his screen I couldn't actually tell you what he looks like.

He's got long thin fingers made for skating on touch screens. Very easy to break, I should imagine. He's either very clever or very fast at online search. I never know whether it's him speaking or he's just reading from Google. Spivey burst in and asked everyone whether they knew that we had a sweatshop in east London that paid minimum wage to repackage Burmese bandages.

Ollie's head lowered into his tablet and Eldritch explained wearily that was how Smokehouse makes money. Spivey then announced that the solution to all our problems was that he was going to start tweeting so we would be completely transparent. Ollie's head lifted. Not a nice face but a very excited face.


Twitter. I've looked at it and as far as I can see it's the human equivalent of dogs sniffing each other's behinds. It's good for two things, outing celebrity naughtiness and getting Arabs to converge on squares.

Ollie has now persuaded Spivey that it's actually a miraculous free means of disintermediating broadcast media and seamlessly and transparently communicating with the public. At some stage soon I'm going to have to disintermediate his scrotum. Spivey wanted his first post to be our entire corporate strategy.

I pointed out that reducing it to 140 characters would just leave the part about sucking the blood from the necks of our customers. Ollie also set him up to follow a couple of feeds on corporate integrity but Spivey was blocked before he could say #fail.


Spivey has now been blocked by more people than are following him. I warned Ollie that unless Spivey had more success with Twitter, all his precious social media would be in the same Do Not Disturb file as corporate social responsibility. Then I spoke to Marsha on reception. She's about 45, smokes like a Chinese power station and has more rings than fingers (never a good sign on a woman).

I remembered she'd traded in her third husband for a Burmese cat. Ollie was then remarkably helpful when I asked him to tweet from Spivey's account a photo of Marsha's cat with a bandage on its little paw under #burmesebandages. Spivey now has 15,000 followers waiting for more cute cat pictures and you can't find the NHS story for love or money. And that, thank God, is curtains for transparency.

Guy Browning can be contacted at

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