Using PR in a data-driven world

On May 14, 2019, a vulnerability that could have allowed hackers access to its users’ phones was discovered in WhatsApp, a popular messaging app owned by Facebook.

On May 24, 2019, Canva, an online graphic design tool, found out that they had a data breach, affecting up to 139 million users globally.

But, large enterprises are not the only ones at risk:

What does this mean for your business?

Technology is an integral part of how your brand connects with consumers, but it also comes with risks. When you are responsible for your customers’ personal data, what do you tell them when an incident happens? When do you tell them? Managing data breaches with a comprehensive issues management plan is crucial to reassuring customers, protecting shareholder investment and maintaining a positive corporate reputation.

How did they handle it?

Canva sent an email to subscribers but was criticized for the way they managed the issue. Rather that being clear and direct, Canva buried the information about the breach beneath a promotional paragraph in the email. Some speculate that this was done to reduce awareness about the breach and minimize the impact on the business as a result. However, some users tweeted about the lack of clarity, forcing the company to issue a second release. By contrast, when WhatsApp learned about the vulnerability, they immediately issued a press release to media outlets like the Financial Times. They reassured users that the vulnerability had been fixed and encouraged them to update the app with the secure release.

What to do if this happens to your business?

The possibility of business systems being compromised is significant, so it is important top be prepared. The following checklist can help your organization mitigate negative business impact in the event of a security breach.

1. Proactively monitor your brand

There is no shortage of social media monitoring tools that can be used to track engagement, links, articles and sentiment. Every business should employ a tool such as BuzzSumo or Hootsuite, to monitor what people are saying about your brand.

This is especially important during an issue. It is crucial to measure the volume, cadence and sentiment of the conversation to provide a clear idea of how to manage negative conversations.

2. Plan, plan, plan

You should have plans, not a plan. Have a plan for every possible issue that might impact your business. Sure, many steps may be similar, but account for the unique characteristics presented by each issue. And, size the response appropriately. For instance, a statement from the CTO or possibly the CEO may be necessary for severe issue but for issues like a service interruption, an email to relevant stakeholders may be adequate.

Plans should be accompanied by a list of relevant stakeholders including shareholders, employees, vendors and media.

3. Identify the team and chain of command

Each plan should include a chain of command that contains a list of key decision-makers, their contact information and clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

4. Communicate!

It is important to retain the trust of stakeholders during an issue – be honest, transparent and deliver meaningful, timely updates.

Effective communication is key to maintaining a positive reputation and ensuring business continuity.

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