Privacy Ref Blog

Crisis Communication Plans and Data Breaches

Think of a data breach as not only a possibility, but also a likely crisis scenario for your company. A breach will cost your company not only money but can deeply damage its reputation.

When was the last time your company reviewed its crisis communication scenarios and, most importantly, added data breach to the top of this list?

Response Plan

Dianna Fletcher is the Founder and President of Fletcher Media, experts in assisting organizations in working with the media during crisis situations.

Sounds simple, right; a data breach is an emergency and your company will respond with the same steps as every other crisis. But a data breach is unique and vastly different from other situations. If your company is hit by a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood, there’s an instant and obvious action and reaction.

A data breach; not so much. Hackers are invisible and lethal in their own way. You may first find out you’ve been hit via stakeholders, customers or investigators.

Your response plan will be completely different from a physical or natural disaster.

Response Team

This team may look different from your team for other crisis scenarios. Along with legal counsel, your team will include PR professionals, web designers, social media consultants, an IT forensic team, insurance representatives, and law enforcement or investigatory representatives.

Media Train Spokespeople

At some point in a data breach response scenario, it is important for senior management to reach out and speak directly to those customers who are impacted. It’s part of the empathy and transparency that should be part of every crisis scenario.

But with a data breach, your privacy professional or someone with deep IT knowledge may work with the media. Identify and media train those people BEFORE the crisis happens.

Define Stakeholders

Data breach notification laws require direct notification to those impacted (consumers), but the reach goes beyond customers. Define all stakeholders and consider messages for all.

Assess your “Bank of PR”

What is your ongoing relationship with local and regional media contacts as well as your industry’s media outlets and bloggers? If you don’t have a solid media relationship, hire a PR professional to make those contacts. Build on your “Bank of Good PR” before a crisis hits.

If your company’s data is breached, your company is a victim. But for the media, the story is about the obvious victims, your customers.

Privacy Ref provides consulting and assessment services to build and improve organizational privacy programs. For more information call Privacy Ref at (888) 470-1528 or email us at

Posted on August 6, 2014 by Dianna Fletcher
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