There are two ways to learn from mistakes – get the lessons from your own, or analyze where others went wrong before and try not to make the same choice if you’re ever in a similar situation. While this works quite well on a personal level, it’s also an extremely effective way to run a business. No one knows it all, no one can anticipate all possible situations and almost always there is a precedent. Very little is brand new in the world and especially in business.
Refusing to learn is by far one of the worst mistakes in PR! Thinking you can do the same thing you or someone else has done before and get a different outcome is a little far fetched. One of the most prominent examples I’ve run across is that of companies being entrusted with their customers’ data. Addresses, phone numbers, credit card information, social security numbers, what ever details you think of, it’s been given to a company or another and… it has been compromised several times.
From a PR stand point, exposing your customers’ information to the world to then have them risk ID theft, fraud or simply seeing their accounts wiped clean is a major disaster. It costs a lot of money too! You need to rebuild the shattered trust of those you basically get money from, you need to do damage control and make sure the risks are limited, you might face trials, fines and other nuissances. A famous case is that of TJX. It was one of the largest data breaches in history, but what’s more important is the price paid. Yes, the amounts for law suit settlements are large enough to make anyone dizzy, but the total sum rumored to have been set aside to deal with the data loss consequences is even bigger – 118 million dollars. Discount campaign for customers, crisis management, settlement payments, these are all easy to asses. How about all marketing and PR effort invested over time in rebuilding their image and regain customer loyalty and trust? Can you put a number on it?
This is not a singular case or an isolated one. Actually, there are news of data loss and customer private details being stolen or lost every day. There’s a database storing all these incidents. There are security solutions to prevent them. There are rules to follow, standards to comply with and you can learn of this from virtually anywhere. Yet such reports continue to grow and not all companies have the financial power and PR resources to recover from such a disaster.
Yet they still think they can do nothing about it and be safe. I call it the “it can never happen to me” syndrome. When it comes to computers, technology and the Internet, people take security for granted. All malware is just something that happens to other people, other companies and only they have to deal with it. When it actually happens, it is treated as a singular case than cannot ever happen again, even if nothing changes within the company.
What is even more surprising is that such thinking is not limited to the fairly newer and complicated field of IT security. Think of undercapitalization, lack of promotion and other similar issues. New businesses still fall in such traps although they have been exposed repeatedly. Maybe we should say it again: setting up shop and opening the doors does not guarantee anyone (or enough clients to help you survive) will come in. Even if you have the best product out there, they still need to find out about it!
My advice is simple: give precedents the importance they deserve. They are there to teach you valuable lessons about life, business and how the world generally works. Ignoring them, covering your eyes and refusing to acknowledge them will definitely not create a bulletproof shield against consequences.