[By Meenakshi Nowrattan]

Data breaches have become frequent crises in today’s society where technology is constantly advancing. They pose a considerable threat which communicators now need to consider when building strategic communication plans. Bearing in mind the major impact of a data breach, it is better to be proactive rather than reactive.

According to Harvard Business Review, it is important that your company has a plan and it is crucial that a plan is created before a data breach occurs. Public relations professionals should keep the following five tips in mind when creating a proactive crisis communications plan:

1) Decide who is best suited to handle a crisis and assemble a crisis management team.
In a crisis, you want to make sure that all roles are understood and employees should consistently be aware of all communications and key messages that the organization has decided upon.

2) Do an environmental scan and take inventory.
Working with a security team, inventory of data assets and potential risks should be documented. Harvard Business Review suggests that “this should also include knowing what kind of attacks make you most vulnerable, anticipating potential goals and running simulations as a working group.”

3) Determine what you are legally obligated to disclose. Disclose sooner rather than later.
When deciding on a proactive or reactive communications approach, the potential impact on the brand should be considered. Failing to disclose information in a timely manner will result in a negative impact on the organization due to a change in public opinion.

4) Establish relationships with your biggest advocates.
After a data breach, public opinion of your company can shift. It is important that the spokespeople who are best suited for your audience have been identified in advance. Make sure these individuals are also trained with knowledge of key messages. In addition to identifying your spokespeople, it is also a great idea to build relationships with members of the media.

5) Revisit your plan often.
Make sure to tweak and update your plan. As time passes, make sure that your plan is up to date and in line with your current personnel and resources.

If you would like to find out more about creating a communications plan for data breaches, read more at Harvard Business Review.

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