Before we embark on our journey through the challenges of managing your brand, we should define what a brand is. A brand is what people think about when your name is mentioned or seen in print - it is the perception of your company in the market. Brand is more than a logo, more than a tag line and it is more than a well crafted advertising campaign. You do not really own your brand. You own the logos, the copyrights etc... Your brand is owned by your clients, prospects, analysts and the media as it is the reputation and perception in the market that you have created. Brand value is determined in part by your brand and related company activities such as public relations, customer service experiences, as well as successes and failures in the market. It does not matter what size of company you are, everything you do affects your brand. Protecting that brand in an insecure world is not easy by any stretch, but it should be part of your contingency plans.
If a brand is what people think about when they hear your name, what happens when they hear your company name in connection with a privacy or security breach or identity theft? Business success depends highly on trust and confidence in the relationship between client and company. A breach of security or privacy can shake the foundation of trust. Your company brand is your reputation and when your reputation is affected the damage can be irreversible.
According to a survey conducted by the Poneman Institute, about 50% of clients said they would move their business if they lost confidence in their suppliers' ability to protect data. A loss of reputation means a quantifiable loss of business.
The reality of our insecure world is that incidents will occur no matter what safeguards, policies and procedures are deployed. Companies need to be prepared to deal with events both efficiently and effectively. The good news is the proper handling of a security/privacy breach such as an exposure of customer information can actually increase customer loyalty and trust. If brand is what people think about when they hear your name, they will remember how you handle these types of issues also.
How would you like to outsource your brand? Unthinkable? When you outsource critical IT functions, you also risk an impact on your brand. There have been countless stories in the media about third party providers inadvertently exposing sensitive client data. Be very diligent when you choose your outsource partners. Don't assume they have good security and privacy practices - demand to know, make it a part of your SLA. Clients will ultimately hold your company accountable. Don't let your brand be affected by poor due diligence.
A few thoughts on managing a security/privacy breach:
* Alert management that a breach has occurred
* Verify the facts
- When did the incident occur?
- What business area was affected?
- What if any personal or corporate data was compromised?
- Where did the incident take place?
- How many stakeholders were impacted?
- How did it happen?
- Who knows about it?
* Evaluate the significance of the incident by reviewing:
- The sensitivity of the information exposed
- What quantity of information was compromised
- The potential for unlawful use
- The dollar value of the assets exposed
* Communication best practices to employ when you suffer the inevitable breech
- Develop your key messages for internal and external communication
- Select the appropriate spokesperson and/or a response team
- Ensure you communicate to all staff that they are to refer all related requests to the response team
- Distribute scripted responses to all designated spokespersons
- Determine the appropriate method of communication i.e.: letter, conference call, meetings, news release
- Notify all distribution channels
Document and learn from the incident by soliciting feedback from all involved constituents to determine whether policies/procedures need to implemented or amended or to determine if more training is required.
Good Security and Privacy practices are simply good business practices. Today's customer is very demanding and extremely aware of their leverage positions. Help protect your corporate reputation, protect the information diligently and you can "Live Your Brand" everyday with the confidence and trust your clients and stakeholders demand.
Leanne Bucaro, co-CEO of Infinity Communications, is a public relations professional with more than 15 years of experience in communications and media.
Visit her website