A Study in Crisis Communications: The Evernote Hack

In March 2013 Evernote, the online note taking and file sharing service (a Silicon Valley startup with $251 million funding behind them), was hacked, leaving 50 million of their users with stolen passwords, data and email addresses.

In a situation like this how a company responds has a direct and immediate impact on their brand and customer relations. With social media the response has to be effective and immediate. How a company takes action gives customers a more honest insight at how they are run than anything else, and in the case of a company like Evernote, it is often very public.

There is a lot we can learn from the kind of situation Evernote faced last year.

1. Immediate Open Communications.

They wrote a blog, emailed all users straight away, telling them that, “While our password encryption measures are robust, we are taking additional steps to ensure that your personal data remains secure. This means that, in an abundance of caution, we are requiring all users to reset their Evernote account passwords.”

They were open and direct on Twitter, enabling concerned users to talk to them in real time. Some users praised the company for their transparency and voiced their support.

2. Not Enough Post-crisis Follow Up

Whilst it is understandable that a company having gone through something like that would be busy, there was insufficient reassurance after the fact.

A week afterwards there was no update on the blog. No additional email to users. This allowed for speculation and the media to shape people’s opinions, which is not an ideal situation for any company to be in.

Initially many asked about implementing two-step authentication for its users. However there was no immediate response. Further adding to users concern.

During the crisis they responded very well. It brought widespread media coverage, from tech blogs to CNN. What they should have done is been more consistent with post-crisis communications.

There were a lot of high profile hacks during 2013 and there is likely to be more this year. If your company faces such a situation: be prompt, be reassuring, be open, and continue to be open with the public, your customers and the media, after any crisis. Hopefully you won’t be in this situation, but if you are, remember how Evernote handled things.

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