Are You Ready If Wikileaks Targets You?

Wikileaks creator Julian Assange has announced that his site is now going to begin to focus on businesses. Apparently the first target, early next year, will be a major American bank. Is your company ready to handle the crisis if an organization like Wikileaks decides to focus its attention on you?

The list of organizations getting blindsided by online attacks is growing ever longer. DKNY joined their ranks recently, thanks to PETANestle will be a case study of how not to respond for a long time thanks to Greenpeace; and the Cooks Source magazine got completely derailed when their misdoings were uncovered and detailed online.

Do you know how you’d respond in these kinds of situations, let alone if thousands of internal documents were revealed by an organization like Wikileaks?

If your answer is “no,” here are a few pointers

Dust off your crisis communications plan

Unearth your crisis communications plan. Does it include a digital component? If it doesn’t, find the appropriate people within your organization and work with them to update it.

Assume it’s coming

Organizations should assume that digital properties they manage, whether on-domain or off-domain, will get attacked by third parties. Every marketing initiative should, at a minimum, incorporate escalation processes into their plans. Community managers (whether internal or agency side) should be equipped with appropriate training and resources to respond to a situation should it occur… because one day, it might. As DKNY found out recently, these attacks can come from out of nowhere.

Plan and practice for scenarios

Pull people from multiple departments together and consider the most likely issues that might emerge, then practice responding to them. Use facilitators to establish scenarios, and drill your response team so that, when an issue occurs, people know how to respond.

The ostrich approach doesn’t work

As David Armano points out, shutting your online properties down just isn’t an appropriate response to an issue. Sticking your head in the sand (the ostrich approach) won’t make a serious issue go away and it doesn’t mean other people won’ t see the controversy; it just means you won’t see it.

Don’t be dumb

As I noted in the case of Cooks Source, communications can’t save you if you’re doing the wrong thing. Wikileaks, Greenpeace and PETA go after organizations they see as doing wrong. There’s no way you can please everyone and you shouldn’t run your company in constant fear, but you can avoid making yourself a target of these kinds of attacks by not doing dumb things.

What else would you add?

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.