Why Cybersecurity and Branding Must Always Work Together

Business.com / Public Relations / Last Modified: December 29, 2017
Photo credit: wk1003mike/Shutterstock

Hackers are increasingly targeting small businesses. While you should take every possible proactive measure to reduce the risk of a data breach, it's critical to put a robust disaster response plan in place. These tips will help you establish a plan and reduce long-term damage to your reputation.

Few things damage an organization's reputation more severely than a massive data breach. After all, consumers and businesses value their privacy and security when doing business online. They trust companies to handle their personal and financial information with utmost care. Suffer a severe data breach that compromises that data, and you can quickly end up with a disaster on your hands.

Businesses use computers and the internet for a range of different activities, from taking payments to marketing their wares to the masses. Some of the largest and most popular brands in the world have suffered public relations disasters due to data breaches. Target, one of the largest discount retailers in the U.S., suffered a devastating data breach during the holiday season of 2013. Affecting millions of customers, the retailer ended up in the midst of a public relations meltdown. This was further compounded by the way the company handled the situation, which left it open to class action lawsuits as well as fallout from millions of angry customers.

How data breaches affect your reputation

No one is immune to data breaches, and they can happen to a company of any size at any time. While you should always take every proactive measure to reduce the risk of a breach, it's critical to have a robust disaster response plan in place. That is something that Target, well, missed the target on.

It's only reasonable to expect that if you suffer a data breach, disgruntled customers will turn to social media. No company can expect to experience a cybersecurity disaster without suffering consequences. That doesn't mean your brand should endure permanent damage to its reputation. However, your customers and the public will be watching closely to see how you respond to a data breach.

If it's not dealt with promptly, a severe data breach can quickly spiral out of control, along with your reputation. Damage control entails being there for your customers, reassuring them that you're taking every possible step to remedy the situation. If you don't communicate with your customers openly, honestly, and promptly, you can expect the following results:

  • You become the subject of highly negative social media chatter
  • Negative ratings and reviews flood the internet and dominate Google
  • Your company is listed on scam advisory websites
  • Legal action may be taken if your business is found to be at fault

As the above points illustrate, a data breach can quickly mushroom from being a crisis to a disaster that can ultimately cause you to close your business. In fact, it has been estimated that 60 percent of small companies go out of business within six months of suffering a cyberattack.

How to avoid becoming a statistic

The first step is to take every available measure to reduce the chance of a cyberattack occurring in the first place. Further, establishing a solid crisis plan is every bit as crucial. Without an up-to-date crisis plan, which takes into consideration your current business processes and systems, your business will not have the confidence to address the situation adequately.

Transparency is also essential for avoiding long-term damage to your reputation. That means being open with your customers and owning up to your failures sooner rather than later. After all, the damage has already been done, but failing to disclose information about the attack will only cause the damage to increase exponentially.

A formal admission and apology is the first step toward mitigating long-term damage to your reputation. The next step is to work hard to rebuild your customer relations by offering compensation and support that goes above and beyond what your customers expect. That also means maintaining a strong presence on social media to keep your audience informed of new developments.

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