CARMEL Harrison PR recently took part in a scenario exercise testing a leading UK university on its responses to an IT hack.
News that Uber has admitted the loss of a significant amount of data reminds everyone just how present the threat of cyber attack is. It isn’t a case of ‘IF’ but ‘WHEN’.
Uber is now facing a significant financial penalty from regulatory organisations such as the Information Commissioner’s Office as well as the ransom they paid out. They could also face criminal charges because under UK law to pay a ransom is illegal unless you are 100 per cent certain that the cash will not be used to fund terrorism.
Worse, they are also facing a reputational loss as they try to explain to drivers, customers and institutional stakeholders such as banks and shareholders how it could have happened.
It is difficult to prevent because hackers are determined and sophisticated. Coupled with human error being the main cause of data breach it is doubly important that you have a plan in place to mitigate your reputational loss.
Our scenario exercise focussed on their key messages once the attack had happened and recovery plan.
With a team of still active investigative journalists we contacted them for confirmation of the details after the hackers released a tweet. Make sure that you are honest and open as soon as possible. And don’t forget you may not talk, but others will use social media.
We then added pressure with a series of quickfire telephone calls from different newsagencies, including print, broadcasting and digital as well as specialist trade and financial. To ensure you relay a consistent message prepare statement for every crisis eventuality
When we had no confirmation from the communications team we rang other senior managers. Don’t forget journalists, particularly local ones keep a massive contact data base. In a breaking news situation, they will use it to get a comment from someone who will move their story along.
To get a full picture we said we had spoken to students, parents and corporate partners. Journalists will go to whoever will give them a good comment. Give them yours first. It will buy time.
As time went on and it was clearly serious we asked for interviews with the Vice Chancellor. Put your most senior manager in front of the press and train them well.
Your financial future and reputation could be on the line. If you would like help preparing for a crisis or training your top team to deal with the media, contact: carmel@carmelharrisonpr.com

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