Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.
It is a PR pro's nightmare and a journalist's dream come true.
Leaks are making news at a rate not seen since Deep Throat in the 1970s. Of course, there's WikiLeaks, masterminded by the creepy Julian Assange. Today the media is hot on the story of a Swiss banker who leaked information about rich tax evaders to Assange’s brainchild. But other leaks also abound. Goldman Sachs recently announced that it was going to bar US clients and all employees from investing in Facebook because someone leaked information about the deal to the media. Goldman is rightfully concerned that all the media attention could be construed as a violation of the prohibition against publicly soliciting a private placement deal.
With the economy stagnant and mistrust of our government and financial institutions running high, leaks are bound to happen. Disgruntled individuals with an axe to grind love to spoil a mar/comm executive’s day by leaking classified data.
So what's a PR pro to do to mitigate the risk of leaks and minimize their damage? Here are some tips:
Educate and train: Regularly remind all agency and client stakeholders that anyone caught leaking sensitive information will be disciplined and face legal action.
Password protect sensitive documents: It takes about three seconds in Microsoft Word to password protect a file. That password can then be shared with only folks who need to know it.
Use a document sharing site: Instead of emailing documents, set up a password-protected mini-site (a private version of GoogleDocs) where people can upload, view and download important files. These sites also enable users to track who viewed what files and when.
Pick up the phone: Secret emails and texts have a notorious knack for ending up in the Wall Street Journal. If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t type it. If you have a sensitive issue to discuss, use your voice.
Be your own leak: Happens all the time in politics. If you have super-sensitive info to disseminate, consider setting up an exclusive with a friendly journalist before you blast to the news to the world.
Have a crisis plan: Leaks happen. There is no excuse for lacking a strategy to deal with them. Denial is usually the worst option. But if you act fast with smart messages to key media outlets, you might be able to get out in front of the leak as soon as it occurs. Keep in mind that a leaker usually provides information to only one or a few media outlets. If you go to that outlet’s competition, you may be able to bend their ear. No reporter likes being scooped.