Keeping Your Communication on Track During a Cyber-attack

No matter your organizational structure or offerings, a crisis can occur that requires immediate and constant communication with your employees, stakeholders and even the public. When we think of crises, what typically come to mind include natural disasters, financial, employee misconduct and, certainly these days, a pandemic. Another crisis that can be very damaging to a business’ finances as well as reputation is a cyber-attack.


Cyber-attacks are growing at an alarming rate, particularly within the last two years. According to Forbes, 2020 “broke all records when it came to data lost in breaches and sheer numbers of cyber-attacks on companies, government, and individuals.” And the impact to organizations is staggering, with the cost of a data breach averaging $3.86 million!


As a result, organizations are expanding their tool chests to better protect against such attacks. However, as cybersecurity improves, so do hackers’ skills. As with other crises, doing what you can to avoid it in the first place is paramount. Yet, like other crises, no matter how much you strive to avoid it, a cyber-attack can still happen. If (or when) it does, are you prepared to ensure ongoing and constant communication with your employees, your stakeholders and potentially the public?


To underscore the importance of communicating during a cyber-attack, PR News recently posted an article, “Five Essentials Will Keep Communication on Track During a Cyberattack,” To best prepare for a cyber-attack, the article recommends:


  • Know Regulation/Reporting. Have a working knowledge of compliance and reporting requirements—monitor regulatory issues and check your knowledge with lawyers.

  • Join (or create) the Cyber Response Team. Build a bridge between your communication team and IT, legal, leadership and outside partners to ensure communicators have timely access to cyberattack information. This will help expedite the creation, review and approval of content you’ll communicate as events unfold.

  • Gauge Transparency. Strike a balance between not enough and too much information-sharing. Address stakeholders’ key concerns without offering information that might further compromise network security.

  • Build Back-up Systems. Imagine your email is down because of a cyberattack. What alternative platforms do you have in place to ensure uninterrupted communications? Do these platforms include a back-up list of employees’ and stakeholders’ contact information? Can the back-up system be mobilized quickly?

  • Be Fast but Accurate. During a cyber-attack, a slow, ineffective response could prove disastrous. Yet, providing inaccurate or incomplete information quickly will cause even more damage. Building that crisis communication infrastructure with your Cyber Response Team before the crisis hits, will help ensure swift AND accurate communications.

Navigating any crisis, cyber-attack or other, is something all organizations should prepare for, both in terms of organizational and communications plans. AOE has deep expertise in developing crisis plans and will work with you to help build the optimal communications for your employees, customers and other stakeholders—no matter what the crisis. For more information, reach out to us today and be sure to visit AOE’s Crisis Communications Microsite.

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