ronn torossian pr crisis

The entertainment world was completely shocked by the amount of information leaked in the recent Sony Industries hack. Sony was targeted by hackers in protest of the film “The Interview”. In this comedy, journalists are instructed to assassinate North Korea’s Leader, Kim Jong-un, after booking an interview with him. Loads of sensitive financial, personal and artistic information were leaked in this surprise attack, which has put a dent in Sony’s reputation.

How Does the Sony Hack Impact the Future of the Entertainment Industry?

Reacting with shock and awe concerning the cyber-attack, people may be asking the wrong questions in the aftermath of the massive leak. Instead of questioning who is responsible for the incident, the industry should instead focus on prevention of the next threat from even occurring. Cyber-attacks are becoming an increasingly common method of harassment, yet very little in the way of preventative technology has been developed.
Sony was given a rude wake-up call regarding their lack of IT and security acumen. The entertainment industry must learn a lesson from this occurrence, and quickly. Industry executives need to view this as not just a crime, but as an act of war. The financial fallout of this act has cost Sony approximately $80 million in initial damages from lost profit because of not releasing “The Interview”. Their brand has been irreparably tarnished by the disclosures of sensitive and damaging information. Essentially, this leak has left Sony out of control of their own brand. They no longer hold the capacity to drive the ship of company property and information dissemination, and now must deal in damage control.
The industry would be wise to temper their communications regarding personnel and artistic commentaries. The entertainment industry will need to invest quite a bit of time and money to employ dedicated cyber-security teams in the future. Corporate communications, even when taking place in an assumed secure arena, must be moderated with tact and strategy. Many executives have been left looking like bigoted curmudgeons, undermining the artistic vision of many pieces of their previous work.
Additionally, there is a desperate need for branches of Public Relations that are entirely devoted to brand management in the face of unanticipated information leaks. Overall, this massive security breach is going to create a climate of caution and mistrust within industry specific communications. Vigilance is going to be key in the future security of any industry, but especially so for entertainment companies. When a movie has been produced and has millions of dollars invested in its success, the early leak of materials is devastating.
How Should Sony Handle the Fallout of Being Hacked?
Sony is an international brand that has the resources to cope with the aftereffects of this incident. However, they need to take a moment to reflect upon the mistakes they have initially made during the first few days following the hack. The company came across as unapologetic for their sloppy security and IT standards. Taken in conjunction with their recent Playstation hack, the public is both unsympathetic and suspicious of the company’s level of competence. The company has failed to provide even the most basic of encryption standards for sensitive data. They need to take a hard-line stance, and invest in the most cutting-edge security available for their networks.
Sony did something one should never do when faced with a bully: fail to stand up for oneself. It’s true that there were alleged threats of violence made in the event of Sony releasing “The Interview”. By caving to hacker demands and not releasing the film, Sony let the bad guys win this battle. The public has reacted vocally, viewing Sony as being complicit in having their First Amendment rights stifled. Artists have decried this as freedom of expression destroyed by cyber-terror.
Unfortunately, Sony may need to reassess their current staffing. Reorganization of some key positions is undoubtedly set to occur, due to a lack of security protocols. Some high-level executives may face public backlash regarding racist and rude remarks that were never meant to go public.
What Can PR Professionals Learn from Sony’s Mistakes?
PR professionals need to recognize the threatening climate of today’s business world. Cyber-attacks are easily leveraged against any industry that hackers or terrorists decide to target. The Sony attack was extortion, pure and simple. PR officials need to help companies save face and stand up to cyber-criminals. It’s hard for the public to rally behind a brand that lets itself be pushed around and victimized.
Additionally, PR officials need to utilize social media platforms to engage in immediate and effective damage control. Consumers do have brand-specific loyalty and feel valued when they are communicated with via these egalitarian platforms. After all, tough words and bravado are meaningless once confidential and unflattering information has been released.