If your organization’s strength-weakness-opportunity-threat (swot) analysis lists privacy as a weakness or privacy advocates as a threat, read on. One of Ki Consulting’s basic principles is that privacy can be an opportunity, rather than a liability, for private companies as well as the public sector. As recent news surrounding probable privacy violations by cloud computing providers has illustrated, bad press related to privacy has a major negative impact on a company’s reputation. However, companies are rarely cited for their strong privacy practices. Public attention to privacy often seems to be directed exclusively towards its violation rather than its protection. The question then becomes, how can companies start discussions about privacy that will have a positive impact on their public image? One of the most important things to know about privacy perception is that it is not primarily influenced by the reach of a company’s communications or the popularity of their products. Privacy perception is best measured by examining the content of consumers’ views rather than using numbers such as sales, website views, or Twitter followers. For example, many of the most popular internet providers have very poor reputations when it comes to privacy. Consumers continue to use them because there is little competition – but they may switch to another company as soon as a viable alternative emerges. While major companies’ messages about their privacy practices may reach millions of consumers, they are not always effective in improving public perception. Which privacy messages do, then, influence public perception? The key is not the reach, but the direction of messaging. Public perception of privacy is influenced less by messages from companies than by messages from a small number sources perceived as credible privacy advocates, such as privacy commissioners, privacy professionals, and investigative journalists. It is how a company engages with these influencers that will have the strongest impact on public privacy perception. In our experience, companies need to take into account two important truths about public perceptions of privacy:
- Privacy issues need to be addressed proactively, not reactively. When it comes to privacy violations, once a certain line is crossed, the public will slowly but surely abandon a product or a service.
- Public perception of a company’s credibility with regard to privacy is influenced by engagement, not marketing. Open and honest discussions about privacy are most effective in building public trust in a brand.
At Ki Consulting, we strongly believe that privacy is an opportunity for leadership, rather than a threat to reputation. By engaging with privacy influencers and embedding privacy messages in the content their audience is already consuming, brands can avoid negative press regarding their privacy practices and instead position themselves as defenders of privacy. Too often, corporations hire privacy experts to conduct impact assessments or demonstrate regulatory compliance, but do not utilize their expertise to help them improve their practices and become known as privacy leaders. Privacy experts at Ki Consulting strive to make privacy an asset by working with our clients towards three goals:
1. Reach a targeted privacy audience
Marketing your company’s ‘respect of privacy’ to a broad audience might raise awareness, but it is the opinions of a small number of privacy advocates that have the greatest impact on media coverage and public perception. Addressing privacy influencers’ specific questions and concerns requires a more focused communication strategy. Our privacy professionals can engage with key influencers in the industry, such as the privacy commissioner, government ministries, and privacy advocates, to address their concerns and build partnerships for improving privacy standards across the industry.
2. Create Trust
When people want information on a product, they look for like-minded individuals whose advice they trust. When we build a real, honest relationship with privacy influencers, we gain the inherent trust of their audience. Creating trust is not something that a corporation can do on its own, by using analytics to target communication strategies, for instance. Companies that advocate for themselves tend to generate negative feedback, while the majority of consumers trust the recommendations of people known to them. As respected privacy professionals, Ki Consulting experts help companies to build strong relationships with the major privacy influencers trusted by the public. To create trust with privacy influencers and with the public, companies would be well-advised to deliver even more than they promise with regard to privacy. This shows that privacy is a not a marketing strategy but a value for the company, and earns observers’ trust by exceeding their expectations.
3. Generate Engagement
Advertising and print tend to be passive mediums; they provide reach, but not necessarily engagement. Influencers tend not to be affected by advertising, but thrive on active engagement. People who have an active interest in privacy value privacy communications not because of how many people they reach, but because of how much they are shared, discussed, and replied to. People who follow a topic such as privacy on Google news, Google Plus, or Twitter, are much more likely to act on a post simply because the medium is more participatory. If you want to brand your product as privacy protecting, utilizing these media is key. Positive engagement on privacy issues usually will improve the public perception of both the company involved and the industry as a whole.
Cost and value
The value of privacy engagement is clear, but what most companies want to know is, “How much is this going to cost us?” Generally, a brand should be looking to spend around 20 percent of its marketing budget on producing and distributing digital content. Privacy is a function that usually consumes around 2-3% of your budget allocation. Privacy engagement does not mean sending out a mass email. Companies need to be willing to invest the time and money to engage with the right privacy influencers, develop a privacy strategy, and make sure it is understood and implemented across the company. The exact amount a company should expect to spend on privacy consulting largely depends on the goals for the brand. Total reach, type of content, and the desired outcome all play a part in the price of privacy engagement, and a company should know its aims before finalizing a budget. Reaching and engaging a company’s target audience online is critical to influencing public opinion on privacy, avoiding class action, and most of all, preventing consumers abandoning a product for one that provides better privacy protection. Privacy is a topic that tends to confuse and worry most consumers. Partnering with a privacy advocate such as Ki Consulting to improve privacy practices and reach out to major privacy influencers is a powerful way to break through the confusion, differentiate your brand, and make it acceptable to the public.