how communication can make or break your organisation post cyber attack
As many would’ve seen through the news cycle as of late, cyber safety risk and reputational management risk are in a symbiotic relationship, they go hand in hand.

Many corporate SMEs have been shaken over the recent cyber attacks of both Optus and Medibank in the last month. But something I couldn’t quite understand was how each of these providers handled their communications in light of these reputational shattering events.

Going to ground was the flavour of the month for these organisations and I suspect neither listened very closely to their PR/crisis teams imploring them to go a different way.

All business owners in Australia must learn from these events and jump into action now in creating clear, concise communication plans in the event of an attack in order to make sure they keep their reputation intact.

What to do to protect yourself?

Cyber attacks aren’t going anywhere. So now is the time to understand your strategy in dealing with them. You can never be too prepared for something that will shake your organisation to its core – most importantly, its reputation.

The way you approach this situation is fundamental in protecting not only your company but also the individuals that use your services. So the first step is to get every senior exec and company stakeholder around the table and run a simulation that you have suffered a major cyber security crisis. Identify what needs to be done and who will do it – the core goal is to resolve and delegate every aspect of the fallout of the attack before it has happened.

With the recent announcement from the Government that it will not pay hacker ransom costs – , organisations need to look at ways to protect themselves. Retaining the loyalty of your staff and customers will come down to your reputational risk management strategy.

The media are on top of these scandals almost as soon as they happen, so once you understand the importance of reputational management and have your own systems in place, it is easier to be in control of your company’s narrative.

Steps to consider

The very first cohort that need to be considered, contacted and cared for after a cyber attack is those impacted. These are the true victims of the cyber attack and the media will pursue them first.

Here are some systems you should consider:

  • Ring the individuals affected and explain to them the situation first and immediately provide support and reassurance – this is vital in maintaining retention of your consumers and limiting the stress that they would otherwise experience.
  • Automate a text message to those affected by the security breach and advise them on the necessary steps going forward.
  • Email those affected and provide resources and updates during the ongoing attack.
  • Create a hotline where your messaging around updates can be clearly located and heard.

The better the communication strategy you have with the aggrieved – the less aggrieved they will be.

There is no better time than now to set up your strategy. Get that automated text system up and running, work out your best support structures in this instance and make sure no technological blip means the difference in weathering a cyber attack.

This also enables you to be proactive when approaching the press as you are in charge of the narrative.

How are you handling the hackers?

The key is to hold the hackers at arm’s length, especially when communicating with the public. Have an official third party, such as a lawyer or an independent negotiating team, working on your behalf behind the scenes to deal with the hackers.

This helps to make your main focus those people impacted and provide succinct and consistent updates that are not emotion-loaded.

Do not go to ground and shut everyone out. You completely lose control in these instances and the finger pointing and accountability will crash down on your organsation. Utilise your social media platforms and harness those media relationships you have built and trust to remain in charge of the situation.

Have a strong plan, simulate the situation and get clear on your communication strategy for your reputation’s sake – not only to protect not yourself into the future but also the individuals that use your service.

Cyber attacks can happen to anyone and acting on it before it happens can ensure the stability of your company.

Tony Nicholls

Tony Nicholls

Founder and Director of Good Talent Media

Tony Nicholls is an accomplished journalist who has held roles for more than ten years with the ABC, SBS and Network Ten, covering thousands of news stories across Victoria, Australia and in the international media.


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