Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 27, 201110:23 PM

All Apologies

What else should I be? All apologies.

Sony is going to have a very long haul over the next long while. The company has been under fire due to a data breach that affected 77 million accounts on their PlayStation Network. You can read the full details about this breach (that included information like personal data, email addresses, birth dates, logons, passwords and potentially credit card information) right here: USA Today - Experts: PlayStation breach one of largest ever. Without a doubt, the crisis communication, public relations and marketing teams are mobilized and (hopefully) working around the clock to figure out what the situation is and how to best communicate this information to the world.

Social Media actually makes communications a whole lot trickier.

As a consumer, it seems simple enough: apologize. Let the public know what happened, let the public know how you're going to make things right and let the public know how you're going to ensure that something like this is never going to happen again. As a corporate entity, it's just not that simple. If the company admits fault, it could well put itself in a position where it can have legal action (we're talking multiple lawsuits) taken against it. While there's no saying that the lawsuits won't happen regardless, the way a corporation is structured and the way the legal system works forces a very non-Social Media approach to happen. The only true tactics that the corporation can now take is to mitigate their risk and exposure.

What? Were you expecting openness and transparency?

You see, as much as brands talk about authenticity, transparency and being open, it's a hard thing to do when instances like this transpire. It seems easier (and safer) to stand behind the lawyers and corporate communications professionals. To make matters worse, the USA Today article from above reports that Sony took more than a week to notify the public about the breach. According to one of the security experts interviewed in the article, "The lag of more than a week could have given hackers time to exploit customer data."

Sony cares about their customers.

It's doubtful there was actual malice in this instance. Sony does care about it customers, but it cares about their self-preservation first. The news item reminds me of a story that Jeffrey Gitomer often tells during his public presentations: ask yourself this: if you're with your best customer, who is the most important person in the room? The answer is obvious... your customer, right? Wrong. Gitomer then goes on to say: if you're with the your best customer and one of you has to drop dead, who is the most important person in the room now?

This will be a costly breach.

Trust is hard to gain. Trust is harder to gain when it's already been given and broken. It's going to be a long, hard road for Sony (or any company facing issues like this) to come back from. If they can convince their lawyers and their shareholders to allow them to apologize, explain what happened, compensate those who were damaged by the incident and put in place measures that will ensure this never happens again, they may be ok. If they stumble, if they try to hide the facts, if they start hiding behind those lawyers and senior management mumbo jumbo, Social Media shall set them free (and not in a good way).

Do you think Sony can restore its trust and positive brand image?

By Mitch Joel