HOW TO HANDLE A CONFIDENTIAL, CORPORATE LEAK.
While small- to mid-size companies may not face the same pandemonium as the government if a leak occurs, a business announcement revealed publicly ahead of schedule can still wreck unnecessary havoc on your organization.
Mergers and acquisitions are notoriously leaked. According to Intralinks, an M&A research group which studies corporate deal leaks, 8.8 percent of all M&A deals announced during 2021 involved a leak. Intralinks reports the industries that are the “leakiest” include real estate; consumer products; and technology media and telecom (TMT).
Whether it’s a merger, a change in leadership, or announcing a new product or service, managing the timing of sensitive information is crucial to protecting your company’s good reputation. Here are five front-end strategies for containing leaks, along with five back-end strategies for handling a leak if one does occur.
Putting a Lock-Down on Leaks
These five proactive preparation strategies can go a long way to managing the flow of information:
- Develop an Internal Communication Plan. Creating a robust crisis communication plan is imperative. This plan should address potential leaks, outline response strategies and involve legal counsel. Train your staff on the significance of keeping sensitive information under wraps. Then designate a response team tasked with addressing and mitigating the situation, should a leak occur.
- Limit Disclosure. Keeping sensitive information secure may be as simple as reducing the number of people privy to it. Implement a “need-to-know” policy, where employees, contractors, and partners only receive information relevant to their roles. As tempting as it may be, even your spouse may not be the best confidant in such situations.
- Enforce Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). Require all involved parties to sign NDAs to legally bind them to confidentiality with strict penalties for breaches.
- Secure Communication. Use encrypted emails or messaging apps to share sensitive information. Be cautious about using personal devices for company-related discussions. Ensure that electronic files are password-protected.
- Try Controlled Testing. You might share partial or misleading information to identify potential leakers. This can help you pinpoint the source of a leak if it occurs.
What to Do if a Leak Occurs
Following these tips can help your company minimize damages caused by leaks and maintain your hard-earned reputation:
- Act Promptly. If you suspect or discover a leak, identify the source, assess the extent of the damage, and take immediate steps to contain it.
- Engage in Damage Control. Contain the spread of information. This may involve legal action to prevent further dissemination or public statements to clarify the situation and mitigate harm. Continuously monitor the situation and be prepared for long-term repercussions.
- Communicate Proactively. Keeping internal and external stakeholders informed and assured is crucial for protecting your reputation. Before responding to reporters or other external audiences, be sure your internal team understands what is happening and why. Share what you can and explain how you’re addressing the situation. Provide updates and reiterate your commitment to resolving the situation and safeguarding information.
- Conduct an Internal Investigation. Figure out how the leak occurred in order to prevent further breaches. If necessary, involve legal experts. Consider how major companies find leaks to develop additional strategies.
- Implement Your Reputation Management Strategy. Release a carefully written statement that addresses the situation head-on, honestly and professionally. ReputationUS can provide expertise in crafting and executing strategies to safeguard and restore your reputation.
Whether an information leak was an innocent mistake, or materials were stolen through a cyber-attack, protecting sensitive information and managing leaks before, and if, they occur involves a combination of proactive measures, immediate response and long-term reputation management strategies. We’re here to help.