Equifax, I hate to break it to you, but crisis communications is not a new art form. There are a ton of PR agencies out there that would love to help you with your current dilemma.
The basics of crisis communications are pretty simple and they lay out a nice little road map on how you need to react. Unfortunately, you have some catching up to do, and it just might be too late to save your situation.
First, you need to take responsibility for your involvement in the crisis, and fast. In this case, your system got hacked. You didn’t allow this to happen on purpose, but your security software failed. That failure has exposed hundreds of millions of people. You chose, bought and administered the software – it failed. Your first step is accepting that the public blame won’t fall on the security software. You need to take responsibility immediately, and waiting six weeks to take action is not acceptable.
Step two, you need to identify who was impacted and show them that you are their ally. Unfortunately, this is a problem. You have publicly stated that you won’t be reaching out to most of those potentially impacted, which as far as the public is concerned, means you don’t care.
The situation worsened when your executives starting selling their stock before the announcement. These actions made clear the priorities of your leadership team – and unfortunately showed that they care about themselves, not the victims or the company. Say hello to your crisis within a crisis, and prepare to follow these steps to solve that, as well.
Next you need to take steps that show how you are implementing measures to rectify the problem for those impacted. This is tougher after not contacting the affected people. It’s even worse when the fine print of your solution indicates that you might only be doing this to protect yourselves from a lawsuit. And, when you announced the breach, you weren’t ready to protect the victims. Again, that’s a big failure.
Okay, we’ve had a couple of major stumbles here, but the next step will help. You need to show the world what you are doing to make certain this never happens again.
Are you listening, Equifax? What are you doing to make sure that this never happens again?
In one week, the hack went public, executives tried to protect their money and the brand damage to Equifax may be irreversible.
What was once one of the three juggernauts of the credit information industry may now just be the source of an epic credit rating collapse. What’s worse is that the world believes that Equifax doesn’t care. Who knows? Maybe they do, but in the world of public perception, whether or not they actually care, doesn’t matter.