Solomon McCown President and
crisis communications expert
Ashley McCown participated in a Wells Fargo
Network Security and Privacy Risk Seminar on September 24.
Ashley joined several distinguished legal and insurance experts to
talk about the risks involved with privacy and network security and
how companies can proactively protect themselves from a public
relations disaster in the event of a data breach.
"It's not a matter of if, but when," Ashley said about data
breaches. "The decisions and pressure on an organization when it
actually happens is unbelievable and overwhelming. The clock starts
ticking right away and in this world of 24/7 media, a slow, unsure
response can be deadly."
Advanced planning is key. Though it can be difficult to make the
case to budget-conscious CEOs spending dollars upfront on
communications planning and training will save money in the
long-term and help avoid a devastating reputational hit. Nearly all
communications materials-- media statements, fact sheets, letters
to customers and clients-- can be prepared in advance so there is
something to work with when the crisis strikes.
Ashley encouraged leaders to think about how they want their
companies to be perceived after the crisis is over. Proactive and
regular communication to key audiences - including clients,
employees and the media - is crucial. Especially in a digital age
when social media makes everyone a reporter, and there is little or
no accountability for sharing inaccurate information, companies
must be willing to control their own narrative. Ducking behind "no
comment" is not a viable communications strategy and will imply
that a company has something to hide or is not in control of the
Social media is a fantastic tool in the event of a crisis such as
a data breach, but only if a company has loyal and engaged
following ahead of time. It is impossible to play catch-up and try
to build a strong social network as a crisis is unfolding.
Loyal social networkers can help spread company statements and come
to its defense. But, as Ashley said, "If you don't hit the 'on'
button on social media until your crisis, you're toast."