Their data, your reputation

The issues of privacy and data security just won't go away. Last month The Daily Beast broke a story about how Samsung Smart TVs listen to private conversations in remarkably Orwellian fashion, which the BBC and Mail Online also picked up.

Don’t use data in ways you wouldn’t be proud to advertise, writes Jacques Viljoen
Don’t use data in ways you wouldn’t be proud to advertise, writes Jacques Viljoen
The fine print from Samsung’s lengthy data policy sounded incriminating: "Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party." 

Appearing disingenuous, Samsung was found guilty in the court of social opinion.  You’d think twice about buying one of these TVs, or any Samsung model for that matter.  

This comes at a time when consumer concern about online privacy is rising, with global privacy management company TRUSTe citing in a recently released report that 92 per cent of internet users are worried, with one in three more concerned than they were a year ago. 

With data leaks, hacks and technical glitches becoming so prevalent, companies cannot hide behind self-serving phrases buried within catch-all privacy policies.

Instead, the time has surely come to proactively share and explain data policies.

We must earn consumer trust and respect, as a kind of insurance policy against unforeseen events.

We spend years building company-wide reputations that data trust issues can undermine in a matter of weeks.   

Our actions can go further though. Those who actively assert their data credentials – and put customer benefit at the heart of their approach – will win out in this newly defined battleground of corporate reputation. Their trust will rise relative to others. They’ll gain a competitive advantage. 
Here are a few suggestions as to where we might start:

1. As a rule of thumb, don’t use data in ways you wouldn’t be proud to advertise. 

2. Show and share positive human stories that demonstrate how your company uses consumer data for customer benefit. Get your PR team telling your stories, supported by social media.

3. Make your data policy digestible. Create infographics and short videos that are readily accessible across customer journey touch-points such as online, packaging or at point-of-sale.

4. Allow your company to be vetted and approved by a third party. This will provide another layer of credibility, for example, a 'Data Seal of Approval'.

Finally, in all you do, I’d like to offer a couple of guiding principles. 

First, be as transparent as possible. Radical transparency is something we’re seeing more of in all walks of business.

Second, talk without jargon, addressing people as human beings. It means thinking less about policy documents and more about social contracts. 

Jacques Viljoen is PR manager for Captive Minds 

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