Customers to Corporations: Handle My Data With Care, or Else…

November 14, 2018


There’s a fatalistic phrase I hear a lot that goes, “it’s not a question of if your organization is breached, but when.” With the volume of breaches and data security-related incidents in the news on an almost daily basis, you can understand why one might feel that way. But FleishmanHillard’s own Authentic Insights found that found that 81% of engaged consumers in the U.S. and 80% in the U.K. saw data security and privacy as a priority issue — ranked almost as highly as freedom of speech and healthcare access and affordability.  

Security and Privacy is Not Just a Technical Issue 

Your customers are keeping a keen eye out for not just who is impacted, but also how companies handle incidents that emerge that will help to determine how they perceive that brand from then on. These growing expectations consumers have of companies managing their information means that the CIOs, CISOs and CSOs of the world only hold a portion of the security-related corporate risk in their hands. Once there is an issue, it’s also up to the guardians of corporate reputation to help manage and mitigate corporate risk 

Tip 1: Make sure you know the latest on what customer data is being taken in and how it’s being used — then make an informed judgment about how you want to address or prepare for that risk, with the latest expectations of stakeholders in mind. Represent the stakeholder perspective in updated plans, and in discussions with executives, legal, operations and IT, etc.  

Privacy, Security…What’s the Difference (and Why Is It Important for Comms to Know the Difference)?

For most people, when they hear the terms “data security” and “data privacy,” they both blend together and become indistinguishable. This blog here does a relatively good job of trying to parse out the difference — but in short, I generally view data security as “preventing unauthorized access of data” and data privacy as “good care and maintenance” of customer data, which can include everything from how customer data is used to how it’s stored. The two can absolutely intersect at certain points, but it’s where they veer apart that’s important for communications professionals to note, especially given our Authentic Insights research. While maintaining the security of data can be a bit of an arithmetic equation in many cases (i.e., either data was accessed improperly or it wasn’t), data privacy is a bit more complicated and has the potential to carry some very serious reputational risks.  

Tip 2: Take a fresh look at the data your organization stores and uses. Then, take the time and resources to properly consider how customer data is being used or stored and the potential reputational risks. You will have put your company in a position more likely to help you maintain the trust and confidence of your customers.  

Our research clearly shows that how companies handle the security and privacy of the data they’re entrusted with is very important to consumers. The bad newsthis isn’t something just for technology companies, consumer companies or very large companies to consider — it’s for any company connected to the internet (pretty much everyone). The good newsThere are some very clear and easy steps every organization — more specificallycommunicators in those organizations — can take to prepare for data security and privacy-related issuesSo if (or when) the time comes for you to navigate this issue, you’ll be ready.