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11/20/2018
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Consumers Are Forgiving After a Data Breach, but Companies Need To Respond Well

A solid response and reputation management program will go a long way in surviving a major breach.

After a major data breach, consumers are willing to forgive, but companies can only regain their trust if they are serious, communicate well, and implement real changes, say industry experts who focus on incident response and reputation management.

According to Chris Morris, principal of the Advisory Financial Services Cybersecurity & Privacy Practice at PwC US, although no one action will win back every customer, some measures are more likely to resonate. These include compensation for victims, a detailed explanation of what happened, and a clear description of the privacy policies in place.

"Consumers want businesses to be responsive, transparent, and take steps to ensure a breach does not happen again," Morris says.

In PwC's "Digital Trust Insights" survey, only about half of midsize and large businesses in important vertical sectors say they are building resilience to cyberattacks and other disruptive events to a large extent, Morris adds. And fewer than half say they are very comfortable their companies have adequately tested their resistance to cyberattacks.

As for reputation management, Morris views it as an important component of effective crisis management. For companies to emerge stronger from crisis, he says, they must take the following five steps:

  • Ground responses in the facts.
  • Establish governance and effective coordination via a cross-functional core team that combines PR/communications, legal, and key operational response functions.
  • Understand constituents and stakeholders, respond authentically, and know they will need to monitor each stakeholder for sentiment and may require a different engagement approach.
  • Dedicate energy during the crisis to "look around the corner" for both additional risks or opportunities.
  • Take action on what was learned.

Help on the Way
Some important help may be on the way for companies looking to step up their reputation management game.

Mark Goldman, strategic adviser of Atlanta-based Group Salus, says the company will be testing its new reputation management platform with beta customers during the first quarter of 2019.

The Salus platform, he says, will walk company executives through the five steps of response: assess, audit, plan, implement, and monitor.

"The assessment is not a pen test. It’s more of a look if you have the lines of communication open with all the stakeholders," Goldman explains. "We provide a template that people can walk through to audit their documents, develop a plan, and implement a plan for handling the media with the proper messaging. The platform will help companies decide who will say what and who will be authorized to speak to the press."

Pending successful beta tests, Salus should be readily available by the middle of 2019, he adds.

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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