Is your data crisis management plan in the clouds?

Australia’s ‘catch-up’ with the digital age highlights the power of information security to make or break your business plans today. China’s recent cyber attack on the Bureau of Meteorology’s computers – although denied by China – is a timely reminder to all Australian businesses and governments that such actions can compromise sensitive systems across the whole public and private sectors.

The much welcomed recent moves by academia, business and government for Australia to ‘catch-up’ with other nations in the development of our technology innovation sector brings this to the fore even more.

It is reinforced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of a push to protect the nation’s commercial and strategic secrets from cyber attack.

Digital crisis management now should be high on the agendas of all risk committees.

As we move towards the magical 2020, issues and crisis management plans can mark the difference between business success and failure in effective responses to digital attacks.

The Melbourne-based information security firm Trusted Impact highlighted in a recent survey that key business objectives, such as revenue growth, product quality, time-to-market, customer loyalty, company reputation and shareholders value are all at risk if information security is not interwoven into the fabric of the digital organisation.

The pace of change is such that in the past decade, we have lost iconic brands, such as Encyclopaedia Britannica, Kodak and Yellow Pages to the digital age. Their demise highlights the adage that a ‘stitch in time, saves nine’ is just as relevant today as it was in the 18th Century when it was used as an incentive to the ‘lazy’ to fix a small hole before it became a larger one.

The ‘lazy’ organisations today will quickly have large reputational problems tomorrow because of global news services if their IT, communication and management people are not aligned in their mitigation responses.

The very nature of organisations moving more and more data to Cloud is a perfect example of the need to ‘be aligned and prepared’. Losing visibility as to who has access to your data in Cloud poses the question: “How do you do ‘incident management’ in a cloud environment?”

This question illustrates the large gap between those who will respond WELL to an incident to those that respond POORLY. A clear strategy as to how to develop and implement the issues and crisis management plan for 2020 is today’s ‘stitch in time’.

Fast and social, disastrous consequences

The arrival of social media has been both transformative and disruptive. Certainly for anyone under the age of 40 it is likely to be a major part of their daily lives.

Any medium seen by billions of eyes will quickly attract the attention of business communicators, and rightly so. However, as with any communication channel, the use of social media needs to be carefully thought through, for both message and for suitability.

Of critical importance is the prime differentiator of social media; it is communal and largely uncontrolled. Businesses engaging in social media are undertaking the modern equivalent of standing on a soap box in a busy town square and shouting one’s views, or offerings to invite instant crowd feedback.

To coin a phrase, ‘what could possibly go wrong?’

The answer is, of course, quite a lot. Quickly.

Recently another industry disrupter, ride sharing platform Uber, arrived in Melbourne and started making life quite difficult for the local taxi industry. Uber does not need highly prized taxi licences, despatch, depot or taxi rank infrastructure. All that is needed is someone who wants to make a few dollars out of driving folks around in their car and an app on a mobile phone. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the Victorian Taxi Directorate would want to stop Uber.

In addition to the legal challenges it launched, the VTD thought it would be a good idea to launch a social media campaign to remind people what a ‘fantastic’ service they offered. So their agency launched a Facebook page with a competition asking customers to share their happy taxi customer stories. The supposed incentive being that they could win a year’s free taxi rides.

If you don’t already know what happened next there is a fair chance you will have guessed.

The campaign was wildly successful in providing a public forum for anyone with a gripe about taxi services to vent their displeasure. From smelly cabs and sweaty, clueless drivers, to aggressive and sexist behaviour all the way to actual sexual assaults, the site was swamped with unhappy customers who basically told the taxi industry where to stick their free year of rides.


The whole thing went viral in the worst possible way and was then picked up by all the traditional media, heaping more criticism on the industry and the industry body.

The campaign was scrapped, the agency fired and the Victorian Taxi Directorate had to make the humiliating admission that they would focus on better service delivery rather than social media gimmicks.

The lesson? Don’t rush into the latest communication medium without fully understanding how it works and what the possible outcomes could be. Strategic communication planning will help avoid such disasters, but close consideration of the chosen tactical communication tools is also required if the potential for an own-goal is to be eliminated.

The first principle of thinking things through is not a bad starting point in any communication activity.

The importance of being positive

This is not a piece about mindfulness. It’s a piece looking at the importance of delivering your message in a positive context.

Example one is Malcolm Turnbull.

Since being elected (by the Liberal Party) as Prime Minister on September the 15th this year the Australian mood has lightened a great deal. Why?

We ostensibly have the same policy settings that existed prior to MT’s elevation to the top job; it’s about jobs and growth, tough on borders, tough on terror (albeit with a more nuanced commentary), and a budget that is still in need of repair.

The economy has not miraculously turned around, it’s still “pitchy” and in a transition from the mining boom.

So what has changed?

It used to be the economy, stupid. Now it’s the manner in which the message is delivered.

Despite the somewhat hilarious appropriation of #ideasboom, the concept of embracing challenge, establishing policy settings that promote the very Australian pursuit of “having a go,” and accepting that failure is often the first step to success. Our public discourse is now framed in a remarkably different manner to that of the last 8 years.

The result; a nation that is more upbeat and a hope that is not based on “hard” data (if it was, one would expect to observe the status quo continuing), but based on being engaged in, and a part of, the discussion.

Update: I read with pleasant surprise earlier today in today’s The Australian (Shows potential but more work is needed, December 16, 2015) that Janet Albrechtsen agrees with my sentiment,writing:

Malcolm Turnbull earns early good marks too for setting a new tone and focus. Positive words are no substitute for good policy but there is undeniable power in a dose of upbeat leadership.


Example two is climate change messaging.

When the Paris climate talks were being discussed recently, an observation was made that the negative “doom and gloom” messaging was no longer gaining any traction in the public realm.

The conclusion reached was that people were simply sick and tired of the negativity associated with the issue. It didn’t mean that they were any less interested in climate change, nor were they any less interested in seeing action taken. The general consensus was that they wanted the discussion framed differently.

Both previous blogs published by RMKA and media commentary in the immediate aftermath of Tony Abbott’s demise commented on the Australian public’s lack of appetite for overtly negative and aggressive discourse.

The takeaway here is that if there is an opportunity to ‘be the statesman’ and frame your message in a positive light it will have greater cut through and success in the current climate.

Finding your positive angle and framing the associated positive messaging is something that RMKA excels at.