How Marketers Can Protect Their Organization’s Reputation During a Data Breach

By Guest Comment

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In today’s increasingly digital world, cyber attacks have become a very unwelcome threat to organizations and the customers they serve.

Consumers view data breach incidents as a personal violation in trust and loyalty. Though many organizations are responding to the threat by doubling up on their security measures, they are often overlooking the critical need to build and maintain trust before an incident takes place.

By putting into place mechanisms that build trust equity, marketers can play a key role in fostering customer loyalty during a data breach (or other crisis that impacts their reputation) and avoid sustaining irreparable damage to both their brand and their business.

A recent study conducted by Deloitte indicates that executives are overestimating their ability to meet customer expectations related to trust and privacy, and underestimating the advantage a data breach affords their competitors.

Your organization is only as good as its reputation; marketing executives should consider implementing the following measures to establish a sustainable communication platform and build trust equity before they are faced with a breach.

Assume a Strong Leadership Position

If customers perceive your organization as an industry leader that provides valuable services and products, and educates them on the issues that matter, they are more likely to give your organization the benefit of the doubt during a crisis.

The key is in leveraging that reputation to the organization’s advantage, and communicating to customers that you will take the proactive steps necessary to right the wrong.

  • Create message platforms that address privacy and trust issues so you establish the organization’s commitment to those issues.
  • Consider featuring employees, who can be valuable advocates and ambassadors during a crisis. Many consumers have an easier time relating to real people than they do a faceless organization.
  • During a breach, you will not have time to assess and adjust. Periodically check in to determine the efficacy of these campaigns by reviewing the data and making adjustments.

Maintain a Consistent Stream of Communications

The strength of a brand is in the vibrancy of its relationship with its customers. Two-way communication through social channels is a good way to stay in touch and take the temperature when it comes to customer sentiment.

Following up with personal outreach for any issues that might arise, and regularly reaching out with organizational updates engenders trust and confidence. By building regular touch-points into an organization’s relationship with its audiences, you establish familiarity on which they can draw in the event of a breach.

  • Establish regular means of communication across various channels (traditional, digital and social).
  • Two-way communications and engagement are key. Implement marketing programs intended to teach, ignite discussion, and gain honest feedback.
  • Customers are increasingly interacting with companies through digital and social channels. By engaging audiences through digital-enabled platforms prior to the breach, you have a space in which to interact with them during the breach and reinforce your commitment to addressing the issue.

Build Good Will Through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

If your company is making a difference in the community or at a national level through volunteerism or funding, amplify these initiatives with marketing campaigns. Tailor campaigns to highlight the positive impacts your CSR efforts are having and make sure that the causes align with the organization’s overall mission and brand. By partnering with an advertising and marketing firm, organizations can digitize and amplify these stories via display ads on social media.

  • Identify CSR initiatives that align with the brand and have tangible results
  • Design a marketing campaign around employees that care, using social and traditional media to broadcast campaign
  • Create short narratives, and digital assets (videos, sharable images) that tell the story
  • Philanthropic messaging will reach the ears of consumers and enhance the loyalty they feel towards the organization

Carry On, but Carefully

The months following a data breach incident are the most important in rebuilding trust equity. An organization should emerge from a data breach situation as positively as possible. Assess your messaging through the lens of the data breach to ensure that upcoming communications are not at odds with the situation or insensitive to those who were affected.

  • Do the messages in our communications appear disingenuous?
  • Are we presenting information that is no longer accurate?
  • Does our digital pipeline have planned content updates or “posts” that need to be pulled?
  • What can we add to our current communication plan that will help rebuild trust with our audiences?

Companies should absolutely do everything they can on the IT back end to shore up security, but with the prevalence of online data growing every day, organizations need to stockpile trust for the inevitable breach. Visionary leaders must move now to ensure appropriate attention and resources are being deployed to strengthen their corporate brand and maximize trust equity, knowing these intangible assets will help to mend fences in the event of a cyber attack.

andrewpelosiAndrew Pelosi is the executive vice president of account management at PARTNERS+simons, a marketing services firm operating in the health and wealth spaces. With more than twenty years of experience at highly respected agencies, Andrew’s leadership enables his teams to become experts in their clients’ businesses, provide vision and strategic leadership, and develop creative, data-driven marketing solutions.

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