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Lessons Learned from the Clinton Email Server Brouhaha

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Lynn HaberCHANNEL PARTNERS CONFERENCE & EXPO — What happens when you build your brand and Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal points back to your MSP business? It’s time for some very serious crisis management. But what does that look like and how can your company recover? More importantly, how about being proactive and building safeguards into your business for any unanticipated business crisis?

That was the topic at the session, “Our Brand Really Is Crisis: Lessons from Campaign 2016, Russia and the FBI,” delivered by David DeCamillis, vice president of sales and marketing at Platte River Networks, and Greg Bond, marketing director at Estound. Bond worked with Platte River to help with social media crisis management.

“Our goal is to educate you should you be faced with a crisis where a customer’s data that you’re managing gets breached — it could be high-profile data where an investigation may occur. Or, you could have a customer who does something wrong and an investigation occurs on a political level and the media get involved. There are lots of different crises that can occur,” said DeCamillis.

Sharing what Platte River did right and what it did wrong regarding the email server scandal resulted in many lessons learned. Tuesday, at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, the MSP hoped to help session attendees be prepared for a crisis and how to handle it.

“We thought we were prepared but actually we were not — nor did we ever expect anything like this to fall into our lap,” said DeCamillis.

The good news is that channel firms can recover from a crisis, but it’s an expensive, nasty and grueling process. Or, by taking proactive steps to crisis management, it’s likely that you’ll be ahead of the game.{ad}

The first action that Platte River would change if it could was getting the right legal help and PR specialists involved at the time the first legal letter arrived in the mail. But that’s not what the company did. The MSP was naïve and instead turned to a local law firm that helps the company with SLA issues, among other things. And, Platte River talked to the press without the expertise of crisis-management professionals.

Takeaway: Get the right crisis management experts, i.e. legal and PR, involved from the get-go.

“One thing I learned the hard way was that that anything to do with the government is linked to the press,” said the Platte River executive.

Big-name media outfits showing up at work and home, camping out in parking lots and approaching Platte River staff as well as trying to …

{vpipagebreak}

… get into the building was as DeCamillis said, “insane.”

The company was outed, trashed on social media, i.e. Twitter, Facebook, and on Google. In fact, the MSP’s Google ranking went from 4.8 to 2.9 in three months — definitely not good for potential new business.

Next piece of advice: Get help managing your website because you’re going to need it. Bond talked about getting negative review removed, which took months and only resulted in some but not all negative posts going away. Still, the damage was done, said DeCamillis.

The company also had to deal with vicious Facebook and Twitter posts — good luck with the latter, Bond said. “When it comes to control, you have the most control over your website then Facebook, LinkedIn and, Twitter,” he said.

Unfortunately, attacks on employees are part of the attack package — both online and off.

“You need to be prepared and you’ve got to secure your staff and let them know you’re doing everything you can,” said DeCamillis.

Employee morale could go down the drain, but with the right training, script support, communication and security, Platte River didn’t lose any employees.

In addition to securing employees online personal information, it was also necessary to secure the building, staff and infrastructure. Some customers and partners had to deal with the negative fallout because they did business with Platte River. Communication is key here.

So what to do when the government calls?{ad}

“Once you get sucked in, you’re stuck. We traveled back and forth to D.C. They came to us; we had to go to them. We turned over everything … multiple times,” DeCamillis told the audience.

The MSP dealt with unforeseen costs, lost revenue, legal, PR, errors and omissions, tanking Google rankings, lead generation and customer retention.

Platte River, in business for 15 years, did lose some customers. The MSP’s 25 percent growth rate dropped to zero and stayed there for many months. Over time, the company did come out the other side.

Do the repercussions ever stop? It dies down … slowly, the speaker noted.

As it does, social media branding, campaigns, keeping up the positive efforts, human content and eventually the Google rankings started going back up.

“Platte River is seeing a rebound to business as usual,” Bond said.


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