Fallston Group

Large Company Data Breach

Practice Area: Crisis & Issue Management

Client

A large company that owns and operates numerous service locations across the northeastern U.S.

Project Background

The company in question experienced a significant security breach in which sensitive patron credit card information was compromised. This was part of an international criminal enterprise that involved both national and international investigating bodies.

Client Objective

The company engaged Fallston Group to minimize damage to the brand’s reputation while maximizing positive stakeholder opinion and trust in the company in the wake of this data breach.

Strategy & Tactics

The Fallston Group’s mantra is, “If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And, when someone else tells your story, it won’t be the story you want told.”

That held particularly true in this case, in which news of the data breach was accompanied by false information leaked to the public via digital media.

While company leadership acted quickly to respond to the security and legal implications of the data breach, executives relied on the Fallston Group team and recognized the paramount importance of effectively communicating accurate details surrounding the case to key stakeholders. Due to the nature of this issue and the false information swirling, time was of the essence. Fallston Group quickly implemented the following tactics:

  • After consulting with executive management, who were unsure as to whether or not to respond, Fallston Group encouraged a proactive approach and launched an immediate response–a full 30-day initiative.
  • Developed and executed a three-fold strategic communications plan to minimize reputational damage by addressing internal stakeholders as well as customers and the media.
  • As part of the plan, provided both customers and the general public with strong messaging which detailed the facts surrounding the incident and the company’s positioning.
  • Used various traditional and digital tools to assess media coverage and public sentiment surrounding the proactive announcement of the incident and track results.

Project Challenges

In addition to the primary objective of protecting the brand and restoring stakeholders’ trust in light of a serious data breach, Fallston Group was challenged with several other tasks, including:

  • Working closely with the company’s senior team members to quickly understand and respond to the issue despite the company headquarters being several states away.
  • Carefully crafting messaging to protect the integrity of an ongoing federal investigation into a series of cases nationwide.
  • Collaborating with company executives, marketing experts and legal counsel to develop appropriate messaging all parties were comfortable disseminating.
  • Ensuring the proper communications infrastructure and platforms were assembled to manage the message.
  • Training the primary and secondary spokespeople to articulate the message points with meaning and conviction.

Results

In executing this proactive crisis communications approach, Fallston Group was quickly able to help the affected company turn adversity into advantage, turning neutral media coverage and public sentiment surrounding the incident into positive. In fact, company owners report numerous occasions where customers praised the messaging and quick action taken by the organization.

  • The story ran its short course and faded out of headlines within a 48 hour news cycle, with client position represented in a very fair and balanced manner.
  • The company experienced virtually no loss of business or customer base.
  • Feedback from consumers was overwhelmingly positive, with 95 out of 100 emails appreciative of the company’s proactive, instructive approach.

While a data breach is an extremely sensitive issue on many fronts and the number one risk facing many organizations today, collaboration with the Fallston Group team paid huge reputational dividends as we were able to not only defend, but strengthen the company’s marketplace position. The company has since expressed its sincere gratitude for the executive tutelage, decision-making, strategic communications and crisis management guidance given and executed by Fallston Group.

Takeaway

In responding to any adverse issue, whether it involves a data breach, social media attack, bad press, litigation, workplace violence, employee relations, product recall, and so on, it is imperative to strike the appropriate balance of facts, empathy and action and to act in a timely, effective manner.

 

 

 

 

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