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The Oddities of Transparency: A Case Study in Google Docs
By: Mike Bush
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Whether it’s the scalability, inexpensive costs, or “cool factor,” it seems that Google’s productivity suite has gained a foothold with tech startups. The obvious benefits, such as the ability to log in to Google Drive from anywhere, real-time collaboration, integration with other tools, and, again, inexpensive costs, have companies hosting their entire document libraries in the cloud.

Here at Flack Me, we’ve posted in the past about keeping client documents safe, and those rules don’t change with Google Docs gaining speed (although "Enable two-factor authentication" should be added as a fourth bullet to the list).

What has changed, however, is the fact that, in many cases, our clients get to see how we make the sausage.

Whether it’s teams editing together or leaving notes for the next person, the reality with Google Docs and the client/agency transparency they create is that there’s real opportunity for embarrassment.

For me, I often write something, then go back and edit after I’ve got a rough draft (it’s always easier to edit something than it is to start from scratch, after all). Sometimes, I’ll include brackets when I know the gist of what I want to say, but not the exact verbiage I want to use. In early drafts of documents, it’s not uncommon for me to have something like [we think our new partner is smart] as I’m working through things. It might be a note to myself to remember that our client expressed a desire to compliment the leadership of a new partner.

But putting yourself in a client’s shoes…if you were to see that, well, I suspect it would have you reevaluating your choice of agency/freelancer.

So, before leaving notes or comments in a Google Doc that your client has access to, here’s a new best practice:
On the very top of every working document, include a note that identifies whether a document is ready for review or not.
It will save you an awkward conversation (or three) and prevent you from having to explain that “we do write good” may not be grammatically correct, but also isn’t going to be included in something that's ready for review.


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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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