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Data-breach crisis response: How your eCommerce brand’s PR team can regain trust

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Public Relations

When customers purchase from your online store, they’re placing a significant level of trust in your brand. They share their personal details, payment information, and other sensitive data during the transaction, thinking their data is safeguarded. 

However, research suggests that 1 of every 100 accounts involved in an online store experience a data breach. In addition, eCommerce companies are incurring a loss of $48 billion per year as a result of breaches of information. 

So what happens when that data is breached—when customer trust is in shambles? 

You start the process of rectifying the situation and regaining trust with crisis management tactics. 

PR crisis management in eCommerce

During a crisis, your brand needs to take control and rectify any incidents when it receives negative publicity. PR is a fundamental part of your marketing because it protects your brand’s reputation after there’s been a data breach, negative publicity, or security compromises. Without it, an online brand can face a high risk of loss of revenue and goodwill that it took years to build.

PR tips to manage data breach crisis in eCommerce

1. Take steps to mitigate data breach risks in the future

To reassure your existing stakeholders, you first need to pinpoint why the data breach happened in the first place. Determine what data was compromised, who were the victims and how they should be informed, and what law enforcement agencies have been or need to be informed. 

Work with your backend team to minimize organizational risk, take measures to optimize the security of your site with encryptions, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems, and integrate eCommerce monitoring tools in place that help you optimize your site for technical glitches and aid you with revenue recovery in the future. 

To prevent this, you can also leverage the power of no-code web development to optimize the functionality of your eCommerce platform without extensive coding knowledge, allowing for faster updates and modifications.

2. Assemble a PR team for crisis management

Crisis management requires teamwork. Before even preparing a PR plan, assemble an incident response team immediately that includes a lead investigator, communications leader, human resources, public relations expert, attorney, and IT expert. Each team member can bring useful insights to your response and have specific responsibilities to manage the PR crisis.

3. Formulate a communication strategy

It is ideal to have a crisis management response strategy prepared in advance. It makes it easier for you to follow a set of protocols that can reduce considerable work when an actual crisis strikes. 

Formulating a communication strategy involves outlining how and when the brand will respond to the crisis and what your press release should include. Just make sure that your employees are as capable as your leadership when it comes to being discreet until an official statement is on the way. You don’t want an employee to communicate the breach before the press release. 

4. Write your crisis messaging and release the statement

In PR crisis management, effective emergency communication is the key to mitigating the negative publicity surrounding the breach. Ensure that your statement includes reassurance, and transparency, and adopts an appropriate and respectful tone. Highlight your active involvement in the data breach situation, the actions you’ve taken so far. Be sure the messaging addresses the importance and urgency the situation requires.  

Customers and other stakeholders will have a lot of questions so ensure that you anticipate and answer them in your press release. This can include adding details like 

  • The stakeholders affected by the breach 
  • How it was discovered
  • Which, if any, personal data is at risk 
  • How it will impact the community 
  • What services you are providing to the customers after the breach
  • Suggestions for customers to take appropriate precautionary measures to protect themselves if necessary
  • How you are going to compensate for the data loss 
  • Ongoing actions you’ve taken or will take to minimize the impact 
  • When your store will be back up and running, and future actions that you will take to prevent such an incident from happening again

Be compassionate in your statement and provide contact information for media inquiries and stakeholders who are looking for additional information. 

5. Conduct a post-crisis review

When you release your press release, be prepared to answer questions and respond to negative remarks on social media platforms. You can leverage social media monitoring tools to monitor your mentions on social media channels and check the online sentiment surrounding the data breach and what customers are saying. It helps you intervene to shape the narrative in a timely way. 

A post-crisis review also involves analyzing your PR strategy, such as assessing what parts were done right, which ones failed, areas of improvement needed, and so on. You also need to evaluate the performance of your crisis response team and determine if you need to add new members. 

Finally, you need to take precautionary steps to avoid data breaches in your store in the future. A security compromise, again and again, can dwindle all the efforts of your response and harm your long-term revenue goals. 

Wrapping up

No eCommerce brand wants to be in a situation where they have to acknowledge a setback in security. But the more success you aim for, the more likely such situations are. 

Having a crisis management plan and leveraging human and technological resources to turn the situation around can strengthen your brand image and make it capable of handling such situations in the future.

Lucy Manole
Lucy is a creative content writer and strategist at Marketing Digest. She specializes in writing about digital marketing, technology, entrepreneurship, and education. When she is not writing or editing, she spends time reading books, cooking and traveling.

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