Cyber Security Breaches: How a Communications Plan Can Protect Your Reputation

How fast does a reputation change? At the speed of digital communication.

In the PR days of a bygone era, if your company offices were broken into and the press shared the story, you might even hear from the paper before the story would run. You’d have a spokesperson make a statement. The public might even feel badly for you, since the crime was clearly not your fault. (Except the banking industry, they learned a long time ago to keep break-ins a secret, using other deterrents instead.)

But in the cyber world, the game has changed. A cyber security breach can cause a major hit to reputation. Shopping super chain Target lost an estimated $450 million in revenue, much of it from lost reputation, after a Christmas-season shopping breach.

Most companies couldn’t sustain a blow of that magnitude.

To protect your reputation, you need a plan.

An Ounce of Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say, and when it comes to online reputation management the saying holds true.

A reactive plan has to act quickly, to both identify and mitigate the threat, while simultaneously controlling any reputation backlash.

A proactive plan anticipates the possibility and has steps in place, coordinated in advance, to protect your online reputation in the case of a cyber security breach. With the right plan in place, your clients and customers do not lose faith in your cyber security simply because of a breach.

You have a response plan in the event of a fire or natural disaster, the same should be true for cyber disaster.

The Effective Communications Plan

An effective communications plan is tailored to your business, but it might have certain ingredients, across any industry. Your communications plan should include:
• What types of scenarios might occur, with a communications plan for each
• A named response team, who would make official statements or replies in a cyber security event
• Who would be notified and how, such as notifying board members, cyber team, and various other potential information channels
• Who would have the authority to modify the plan on the spot, if a scenario was outside what was predicted

It requires a certain, “worst case scenario thinking,” but the most effective response communication plan has anticipated attack from many different angles. What if the breach is due to an employee mistake (such as falling for a phishing scam)? What if your organization learns of the breach from an external source, and had not yet noticed internally? What if the breach has in impact on delivery of physical goods? What if it involves loss of sensitive customer data, how will customers be notified and how will the response go?

A good communications plan has asked these and hundreds of other questions, until the plan is really solid. That level of efficacy to your plan is the one that stands the best chance of protecting your reputation, should a breach occur. It won’t look hastily thrown together and full of holes like a sieve, because it won’t be.

Comprehensive Reputation Management

Comprehensive reputation management services will consider a communications plan in the event of a cyber security breach. It’s one of the many angles to consider when it comes to online reputation management.

The digital world operates quickly, but with the right preparation, so can you. You can respond and handle a breach swiftly and effectively, with an agreed-upon plan that has been worked out and internally approved in advance, by anyone who needs to be involved. That doesn’t just save time, that can save a great deal of money.

You’ll have a better castle to defend.