Thursday, February 02, 2006

Lead by Example

I promised myself I wouldn't overdo it in the opening days of this forum, but in my original draft of "Shameless" I closed with a local breach that is making national headlines. I felt I had to give the event more play, so I cut it out and pasted into this entry.

Four days ago, here in Massachusetts, the Boston Globe and Worcester Telegram & Gazette experienced a breach of their own when printouts of subscriber credit card data and checking account routing numbers were used to wrap bundles of newspapers Sunday night for Monday morning delivery.

How are two newspapers handling the communication of this event with their subscribers and the public in general? Thus far I haven't seen anything that impresses me. A press release and a story by their own staff. The Associated Press story (linked above) and other stories, such as the one carried by cross-town rival Boston Herald suggest little effort beyond the minimum to reassure potential victims about what is being done to protect them and minimize their risk. Meanwhile, reports that spokespeople for the papers are refusing requests for interviews with broadcast media are circulating.

Suggested course of action? The Globe and T&G should lead by example here. They should actively engage their customers and the public to discuss the issue and what they are doing to address the situation, and they should respect the requests of their colleagues in the media. They learned of the breach the morning of January 30 and, with 24 hours to prepare for disclosure, both papers should have had a notification plan in place that included a thorough media strategy.

Four days into this event there is no evidence to suggest that either organization, both of which are owned by the New York Times, gave any thought to a crisis communications strategy beyond meeting their minimum obligation. It's a missed opportunity for a pair of newspapers that dominate their markets and, as such, have a unique platform for communicating to their customers and the public.


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