What do Influencer Marketing and Crisis Management have in common? Not a lot.

Crisis Management is as old as the hills. It tends to be dominated by traditional corporate communications agencies or specialist crisis communications ones. Given its maturity, there is a well-refined approach (you can find guides and templates anywhere). The value comes from preparation, practice and keeping a cool head when the storm clouds arrive. Its main focus is containment.

Influencer Marketing is a new discipline that is still finding its feet – its rules are still being written. It tends to be dominated by digital marketing agencies that work to bring brands and influencers together in the sunshine of mutual promotion. Its main focus is amplification.

A new reality is dawning, however, and it is defining an environment in which both now intersect.

For the first time ever, one issue has become both the top brand risk and also the top potential brand attribute:

  • The top brand risk is now data security and privacy
  • The top brand attribute is now digital ethics and trust

I have written here before about Digital Ethics and how it is going to be the defining issue of 2019 (see my other posts). One of the aspects that is often overlooked is the impact of a new EU privacy regulation called GDPR that has had global impact (firms outside the EU that do business in the EU need to comply).

One aspect of GDPR is the fact that in the event of a data breach, prompt disclosure to the regulator and to all impacted customers is mandatory. This makes the main focus of crisis management, containment, an issue.

Consequently, in times of privacy-related crisis, we need a different kind of approach and a different kind of influencer ….

  • Fact 1) Most brands think that digital ethics, trust and privacy is an issue just for tech firms like Facebook. WRONG – any brands that process data could have a data breach. Just look at the headlines about Marriott Hotels right now.
  • Fact 2) Digital ethics is going to be THE defining issue of 2019. Don’t believe me? Read my earlier posts or watch this short two-minute video.
  • Fact 3) Most brands think that traditional crisis management tactics will contain things when a privacy-related crisis happens. However, the new GDPR regulations make prompt disclosure mandatory, and containment impossible. Recent examples, like the current Marriott incident, show that there will inevitably be a large amount of hysteria and misinformation. And your PR team or crisis management agency won’t be able to combat this, as your credibility will be at an all-time low and the usual containment tactics simply won’t work.
  • Fact 4) This is where “a different kind of approach and a different kind of influencer” comes in. You need to apply Influencer Marketing tactics to leverage the credibility of authoritative figures that have real authenticity in privacy and digital ethics in order to counter any hysteria and misinformation.
  • Fact 5) Social media platforms may be littered with wanna-be celebrity influencers that you can work with to boost your brand when the sun shines, but there is a limited number of privacy or digital ethics influencers that can help you save your brand when the storm clouds arrive. You can use influencer management tools like Onalytica to find one (the tool isn’t free, but Onalytica also publishes free influencer profiles – such as this one of me). Or you can simply search for #Privacy on Twitter and see who the top ranked individuals are.
  • Fact 6) As any crisis management practitioner will tell you, you can’t leave this to the last minute. There is no point trying to learn to swim, only once you start to drown. Preparation is key, because you need to be ready to move quickly when the worst happens. Crisis management experts have always said that the first hour is critical in any crisis and that brands need to be ready to move fast. Now legal challenges are moving just as fast. Marriott was sued within hours of announcing its data breach in class-action lawsuit that was seeking $12.5bn in damages. Read this white paper to help you prepare. And start to develop relationships with key influencers NOW so that these relationships can be leveraged when you need them most.
  • Fact 7) It is not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’ you’ll suffer a data breach. There are hackers out there right now targeting your systems. They only need to be lucky once to get in. You need to be luck all the time to stop them.

Good luck

Organisations in the Non-tech Sector: as Fact 1 above shows, you need to include scenario planning for a major data leak, outage or breach in your crisis management plans.
Organisations in the Tech Sector: this kind of scenario planning is not only needed to support your own brand in times of crisis, but potentially also to support the brands of your clients. If a bank or hotel chain is using your technology and it suffers a major incident, then minimising the impact of the crisis will minimise the damage not only to their brand, but also your own.