Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainable Development

Crisis Communications Planning

January 20, 2015 at 12:46 PM

If last year taught us anything, it’s that communications (or the lack thereof) during a crisis can make or break your brand. Whether you’re a banking powerhouse or a multinational retail chain, how you respond to a crisis can have lasting impact on your organization.

Among present-day corporate crises, information breaches have the potential to be the most harmful, both to the companies themselves and their customers.  Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report revealed that there were a total of 1,367 “security incidents with confirmed data loss” in 2013 alone. The average cost of a data breach is a whopping $3.5 million for each company or around $200 per record, but a substantial part of that cost can be attributed to a loss of brand equity.

How your company communicates with business partners, customers, and the media is usually at the forefront following a breach. A study from the Ponemon Institute revealed that nearly 50 percent of CEOs surveyed believed their company would suffer a data breach within the next 12 months yet only nine percent believed they had an effective incident response plan in place.As we’ve seen, failing to prepare a response could significantly damage a company with an otherwise untarnished reputation.

Developing a crisis communication plan minimizes the impact an information breach has on your business. The crisis communications planning process starts with conducting a communications preparedness audit. This will entail identifying critical issues and vulnerabilities within your company, sitting down with the appropriate internal stakeholders, and asking the kinds of questions necessary to develop a set of communications response procedures to follow in the event of a crisis.

When sensitive information is compromised, it can be financially and emotionally taxing on those affected. Such incidents destroy customer confidence in those tasked with protecting their information. As a result, helping your customers should be top priority. An effective crisis plan will involve helping your clients and all those impacted. Your customers must be assured that you're willing to go above and beyond to serve them. Taking the necessary measures to avoid future incidents and communicating this to those affected is a step toward restoring trust.

Crises need not define your business. If well-managed, a crisis response, together with an effective recovery program, will generate a positive impression among stakeholders and restore faith in your company.

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