Reputational woe for Talk Talk flags the need for post crisis action

December 14, 2016 by Jonathan Hemus

Any organisation can be hit by a crisis: no one is immune. However, so long as you have completed your crisis management planning and crisis management training, you are well placed to respond quickly and effectively.

The bottom line is that you will be forgiven an isolated incident that is well handled. Reputational damage is much more likely if your response is botched or you become a repeat offender.

TalkTalk cyber attack

These principles were illustrated when Talk Talk hit the headlines again last week with news  that its customers’ router credentials had been hacked. The impact of this incident was worsened when cyber-security experts (including one volunteered by the company itself) criticised its decision not to advise users to change their passwords. This latest issue follows the theft of Talk Talk customer details earlier this year and a subsequent fine of £400,000.


Avoiding reputational harm

So, what are the implications for other businesses wishing to avoid reputational harm as a result of a crisis:

Do all you can to avoid a crisis in the first place – prevention is better than cure so conduct thorough crisis management planning and instill a crisis resistant culture

Communicate quickly; fix the problem – respond to emergent issues with a balance of communication and action. Say the right thing and do the right thing

Anticipate increased attention following a crisis – once you receive criticism for your crisis handling, stakeholders (and especially the media) will be watching closely for any sign of a repeat performance.

Conduct a crisis de-brief and act on the learnings – preventing future crises requires organisations to take a cold, hard look at what went wrong. It’s only by doing this that you can address the root causes of the crisis and rectify the flaws in your crisis response. Fail to do this and you risk another damaging episode.

As Talk Talk’s experience shows, getting out of the media spotlight is much harder than getting into it in the first place. That’s why re-doubling your focus on crisis management in the aftermath of a major incident is the only sensible course of action.

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