Reputation has always been important to the success of businesses and organisations. With the advent of the online world and digital communication, it’s become much easier to develop a strong relationship with users and customers and build that strong persona.

It’s also, unfortunately become a lot easier to have your reputation damaged because of a security breach. Having your data hacked by an outside source is common. For all businesses, it’s not if they experience a security breach but when.

Some big online companies have been on the wrong end of a malicious software. When you consider that companies like Apple, Yahoo and eBay have all been hacked in the past, even with their huge financial resources and security measures, then you begin to understand the extent of the problem.

It’s not how you can stop it from happening for most companies but how you handle the security breach, especially from the point of the media. Get it wrong and your reputation can come crashing down in a matter of days, even hours.

Preparation is Key

The biggest problem many companies face is that they don’t think a data breach will happen to them. They’re too small or inconsequential. The truth is that, if you are collecting customer data, then you are highly likely to have someone try and break into your system.

Lack of preparation on the part of a company often causes more problems than the actual breach itself. These events don’t always occur because of an outside hacker, either. They can be caused by employee error, a staff member deliberately sabotaging your system or even a natural disaster like a storm outage or flood.

You need to have a media plan in place, whatever the cause of the breach, and it needs to provide a strong response that reassures your customers or users that you are on top of things. They can forgive the breach. What they won’t forgive is incompetence.

  • Full transparency where possible – many businesses have been caught out by trying to hide the facts. These later come out and end up doing more damage. Make sure you have the right facts and don’t be tempted to make things up to smooth over a crack or two. Honesty is the best policy.
  • Learning to control the narrative – this can be difficult, especially after a major breach. You need to get your side of things out there as quickly as possible, first and foremost, and stop erroneous or misinformed information gathering speed and taking over the conversation.
  • It’s not just the media that is going to be calling you. You will have to contend with worried customers too. That means you really need to open up a channel so that they can easily contact your team as well as provide clear, actionable information on areas like your website.
  • Don’t be faceless – it’s frustrating for customers when a breach has occurred if they can’t see the person who is ultimately responsible. It can seem like the bosses are hiding and really do have something to hide. Make sure that you have someone who can become the recognisable face of the breach. It needs to be someone high up, to demonstrate that you are taking this seriously.

Our main advice is to realise that a data breach could happen to any organisation and you need to have the PR machine ready to roll if you want to protect your reputation. Getting it right may not save your company loss of revenue or customers at the end of the day. Getting it wrong, however, will certainly cost you dear and could reputationally damage your business for the foreseeable future.