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When President Trump announced to the world yesterday that he wants to ban Government agencies using Kaspersky products, there’s no doubt the Kasperksy PR team took a collective intake of breath. In the words of Eugene Kaspersky, the US government turned “their aggressive PR and Government campaign against my company.” This announcement follows news that Best Buy has withdrawn Kaspersky products from its shelves and no doubt, won’t help put any concerns about international cyber security to rest amongst the US public. Kaspersky himself acknowledges this fact, admitting he expects to see negative results in the US market this year.

Placing doubt in a consumer’s ability to trust a brand – and particularly a security brand that has been traditionally trusted with keeping personal content and information secure – is a huge issue for any company and one that PR teams around the world spend much time planning for in a crisis capacity.

As we’ve seen every time a high profile data breach story breaks, people often panic at the thought of some untrustworthy soul being able to access their information whether it’s for personal pleasure at causing havoc or literal personal gain, through selling information on the Dark Web or similar. Social feeds and customer service lines get ambushed with concerned (and often angry) customer queries and customer-facing teams across all areas of a business must pull together and share consistent and up-to-date information if the company has any hope of managing the situation.

Consumer trust is ultimately key to the success of any business and it’s this fact that should reside at the core of any corporate communication strategy – regardless of the type of customer you sell to. If a consumer trusts a brand and sees this trust rewarded with upfront, rapid and honest communications they will be much more forgiving should anything go wrong.

On the flip side, when trust is compromised and there isn’t immediate and clear communications to help maintain it, it can be hard to bounce back. Sports Direct for example, failed to tell it’s entire workforce that they may have had their personal credentials stolen in an internal security breach. The ICO was notified but the company avoided sharing details with staff. It would be interesting to see how many of the affected Sports Direct staff would still rate their employer as trustworthy. Similarly, following the a major cybersecurity incident at Equifax this year, three executives sold their shares – before the company’s disclose. It’s share price has visibly plummeted 13% since and is expected to fall further.

So what do businesses need to do? Plan ahead. Consider what crises may affect your business and plan for them. Think about who needs to be involved and what their role would be. What reassurances do your customers need, when should these be made and who should they come from.

And crucially, ensure your message is coming from the people that your customers look to most. Their immediate contacts are obviously key for this but as Eugene Kaspersky has correctly identified, the ultimate person who inspires trust is the one at the top – the figurehead.

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