Marketers Miss the Mark on Privacy Crisis Containment

Despite all of the press and political rhetoric regarding security concerns, only 29 percent of marketers say that their firm has a crisis containment plan in case of a security breach, according to the findings of a CMO Council report, "Secure the Trust of Your Brand: How Security and IT Integrity Influence Corporate Brands." Without such a plan and other security strategies in place, companies are at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in market value and through loss of reputation and brand trust, according to Scott Van Camp, CMO council editorial director and author of the study.

The Council uncovered that although that percentage of marketers responded that they have a plan in place, 49 percent of business executives say they do, van Camp says. "That could show a disconnect between the business executives and the marketing people." Rather than such a disconnect, consistency in security and privacy is needed across the enterprise, according to van Camp. Marketers must take a proactive role in ensuring that security policies and messaging are aligned in the organization, from the executive suite, across business lines, through the marketing organization, and down to the rank and file.

"According to Factiva, between 2004 and 2006, there have been more than 17,000 articles on security breaches," van Camp says. Therefore, marketers must participate in prevention of security breaches, crisis containment, and restitution. By fostering a "pervasive culture of organizational commitment" to the right technologies and security policies to keep a security breach from occurring, marketers aid in prevention. One of the major steps marketers can take is to reassure the public and business customers that security is a core company value by creating special programs and communicating them via a Web minisite and other marketing strategies.

The report also recommends that in the event of a crisis, marketers should communicate openly with customer, business partners, shareholders, and the press to cushion and mitigate the blow to the brand. "The worst practice is to keep secret what happened, not offering people any information or anything in return like a free credit report," van Camp says.

Additionally, marketers should have a plan ready to help the victims (consumers, or in the case of B2B, partners or other companies)of the breach deal with financial results, such as offering a free credit check, for example. "Establish a consumer advocacy program for security," van Camp says. "The company can make security a marketing differentiator."

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