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Crafting a proper PR response for tech security disasters

by | Jan 9, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

Companies may find themselves at risk for a crisis they may not have anticipated. The possibility of data breaches, malicious hacking, and other data security issues always looms large over any business. But the security breach might not be the only problem a company must contend with—the publicity surrounding the breach creates even more woes.

A company loses a lot of face in the marketplace when a major security breach occurs. Questions arise, fair or not, about why the company allowed the breach to occur. Was there a lack of cloud data security or were the managers simply not up to the task of keeping the infrastructure safe? The storm of bad press gathers when a controversial incident occurs.

To survive the storm with minimal reputation damage, an effective PR campaign must be put into motion. Unfortunately, companies often commit a series of common blunders that make a public relations nightmare worse. Here’s what to avoid:

Not accepting responsibility

“You must own the problem.” This is an often-repeated statement in the world of management. Take the statement as good advice. The alternative entails blaming others or trying to pass the proverbial buck. Not owning up to a bad decision or other problem doesn’t help a business’ image in the eyes of the public. In fact, the company comes out looking a lot worse.

Accepting responsibility for a serious problem and committing to addressing the issue displays responsible behavior. The public may be more willing to forgive and trust a company whose management chooses to take responsibility for a bad situation. So, accepting responsibility for data breaches or other troubles cannot be skirted when problems become public.

Not responding to inquiries effectively

In the aftermath of a data breach or other incident, people will want answers. Clients, customers, and the media may phone or email the public relations and other departments. A proper response must be made to those who put forth inquiries. Failure to do so in a timely way does not help the cause of generating positive publicity. The inability to respond timely and properly makes it look as if the company has something to hide.

Sometimes, the company’s management simply chooses to maintain a low profile and hope to avoid generating controversy and misunderstandings. Both of those goals can be achieved by putting forth smartly-written PR statements. Ignoring inquiries, however, may prove to be a risky and harmful strategy.

Hiding the company’s key managers

Someone has to go out and face the public when a PR disaster takes place. Sending a subordinate makes sense at certain times. However, the face of the company is almost always the CEO. So, the CEO must come forth and speak publicly about the matter. Issuing a short memo won’t be enough at times. The CEO may need to step in front of the cameras. He/she might need to create a YouTube video and publish it.

Hiding the CEO could prove to be a major public relations blunder. Again, anything that creates the impression of a “CEO in hiding” casts a dark perception about the business. Coming out and directly discussing the issue reduces the chances of negative speculation about the company’s culpability and competence.

Fixing the issue

If poor tech security leads to the data breach, clear and definitive steps must be taken to improve security. When a data breach garners public attention, then relaying the steps being undertaken to improve security should be reasonably relayed to the public. This could assist with building confidence in a public that may be shaken up over the breach.

More importantly, improving data security reduces the potential for another problem from occurring. This, in turn, also reduces the possibility that another public relations crisis occurs. Too many public relations disasters could ruin a company’s reputation and harm business for years.

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Jeremy Sutter
Jeremy Sutter is a freelance writer and former mobile marketing manager at Adobe.

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