The test of any company or organization is how it follows its own preachings. That’s why the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, BP, and others get slammed. Hypocrisy. What’s good for others must be good for you as well.
So it was reinforcing and affirming that Reputation.com CEO Michael Fertik did a Q&A published yesterday in The New York Times. His instructions to his clients were precisely what he made sure his company did when it faced a crisis, a hacking.
Q. Your company had a data breach last year and got battered online. What did you do?
A. We decided to talk about it publicly very fast. The data breach was of a shape and size that only one state would have required us to notify residents in that state. Instead of just telling them, we told everybody. And it was painful for a company that does privacy to do that. We told everybody, we made it clear, and we said this is what we have to do, and this is what we offer you, free services and so forth. We owned the fact that it would be an unpleasant 48 hours. We didn’t tell the press first, we told our customers first and the press found out. And since, we’ve made radical changes to our security.
In seven lines, you can’t sum up crisis management any better. And, to Fertik’s and his team’s credit, they did what they tell others to do.
Facts fast is a credo we live by at EMA as well. And always communicate internally first. Your colleagues can be your best defenders if you arm them with all the facts. Those allow them to make decisions in your favor.
He also exhibited and documented a real, if rare, view of social media and how to handle it in a crisis context. Again, a refreshing approach we share:
Q. How much time should business owners invest in social media?
A. Social media is often a waste of their time. A rule of thumb: If you’re selling cupcakes, useful; if you’re selling power tools, not useful. So: pleasurable, joyful items? Probably yes. More female-facing? Probably yes. Power drinks? Sure. Orthopedics? No.
Q. When should a business that has been attacked online in reviews or on social media sites respond?
A. The first thing you do is breathe. Some of this stuff is written for an audience of one: you. Unless it’s very visible, it’s not worth a response. If something that they are saying is unambiguously false, you do want to consider a response: “These people do not serve lasagna.” “They fired their key person who handles accounting.” Those are examples when it’s very easy to correct the record. In a very sanitized, polite way, you can say, “In fact, so-and-so still works here.”
This interview is a gold mine for anyone thinking about how to best handle crises, especially those that play out in social media.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.