For a long time, retail giant Target has always been in a good place PR-wise. It is, after all, one of the most admired companies in the world. However, the Target data breach that took place during the busy weeks before and after Black Friday has changed all that.
The Target data breach a PR nightmare
Of course, things are bound to change, particularly when data from up to 40 million credit and debit cards used in Target around the period mentioned above were, well, targeted and successfully obtained by hackers.
Without a doubt, the Target data breach is a PR nightmare of the highest order. If a Target data breach could happen, it could happen to any business. Truth be told, no one business is really safe from the most hardcore hackers in the world, but the Target data breach did not have to be such a disaster for the company in the public relations department. The company could have done and said some things after the discovery of the Target data breach to calm the public, but it somehow missed out on that opportunity.
Should your business find itself in a similar situation, you really have to do the following to avoid turning it into a full-blown PR catastrophe:
1. Be as transparent as possible
When customers start complaining about something, make sure that you become as transparent as you can about what you’re doing about those complaints. There is no such thing as over-communication when it comes to soothing the ruffled feathers of your customers. The worst thing that could happen is that media breaks the story first before you can make any sort of official statement, which is exactly what happened to Target.
When you maintain your silence despite the mounting chaos, you appear indifferent, irresponsible and to some people, even suspicious. In the case of Target, the breach had been happening for 19 days, but only got to notify its customers way after. That is the stuff of PR nightmares out there, and it’s one you should avoid. The moment a wave of complaints come, waste no time in releasing a statement addressing all the issues.
2. Truly empathise with customers
One major reason why Target is facing a PR disaster is the fact that its statements on the breach sound a bit too cold, impersonal and indifferent. I’ve always believed that when a business makes a boo-boo about anything—say, a fly in the soup—the business owner should stop short of kowtowing to the aggrieved customer just to express how sorry he is , and ask what he can do to make up for it. From its early statements, Target just did the exact opposite, and look where it is now as far as PR is concerned.
When faced with Target data breach type situations, always be honest, forthcoming, and make the customers feel that you feel their pain. Anything less than statements that truly empathise with customers, and they are not likely to forgive you or go easy on you.
3. Use social media for damage control
In all fairness, Target’s PR people did use social media for damage control and to address the issue. They know very well that customers hit by the Target data breach are very likely to complain about it on social media, and they have actually managed to help customers with clear instructions on what to do if they were victimized.
Then again, it’s a case of too little, too late. While Target will certainly recover from this disaster in the future, it will not be coming out of it unscathed.