Handling a Hack


When considering current news events, it’s almost guaranteed that any time you open a paper, scroll through Twitter, or peruse the Skimm, you’ll find something about a company whose information has been hacked. This quickly rising form of cyber-attack affects all kinds of businesses – Home Depot, Target, Snapchat, StubHub and Anthem, just to name a few.

What does this mean for PR professionals? Even if crisis communications isn’t your first choice for a career focus, everyone in our industry should know how to handle a data breach. At a time when privacy is minimal and personal information is at stake, keep these things in mind in regards to hacks:

Be transparent – honesty is the best policy

Don’t wait until months after the attack has happened to notify your customers. There’s a good chance someone will find out and expose your company, making it seem like you were trying to hide it. Chrysler waited nine months before recalling cars that were at risk of being hacked, and is now being questioned as to the reason for the holdup. Be up front with who will be affected and what information is at risk. The sooner the victims know about the situation, the quicker they can react.

Provide help

Do everything in your power to right the wrong. When StubHub was hacked, they immediately refunded customers of any fraud transactions. The company also encouraged the creation of new passwords to prevent any further damage from occurring. It is better to be seen as a helping hand rather than the enemy.

Come back stronger

Now is the perfect opportunity to beef up your security measures. Take the extra steps to ensure nothing like this happens again, and make sure your customers know you are doing it. The spotlight is on you, so you might as well take advantage of it!

Keep the relationship

There is no doubt that people are going to lose trust in your company after a hack. However, this doesn’t have to mean that you’ll lose their business, too. Apologize to the victims, do your best to solve the problem, and show that you are responsible by preventing further damage. You may not have been able to prevent the hack, but you can control how you manage it.

Nobody wants to get hacked, but knowing how to handle the circumstances can make the cleanup a lot easier. As PR pros, we take everything in stride. In the event of a hack, take a deep breath, come up with a plan, and learn from the experience.

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Emily Barber is a Junior Studying Strategic Communications with a minor in Marketing and a Social Media Certificate. Follow her on twitter @emilybarbershop!

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