TRUSTe Survey Reveals Online Privacy Issue: Are You Protecting Your Clients?

Privacy appears to be at the forefront of public opinion as TRUSTe released their annual Consumer Confidence Index. 92% of the people surveyed listed privacy as a major concern when browsing the Internet. This is a 42% increase from 2014. Individuals surveyed considered online privacy more important than national security.

With almost daily news reports surrounding hacking and the latest security breach at the Anthem insurance company, it is no surprise that this issue is a hot topic. The survey further pointed out that consumers were most concerned about the collection and sharing of personal data. This concern has experts concerned about negative affects on consumer behavior.

Modifying Behavior

The loss of trust between a corporation and the public was also highlighted in the survey.

“Americans who are concerned about their privacy have modified their online behavior in the last year meaning less data, fewer clicks and lost sales.” said Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe.

When consumers modify their behavior, they interact less with online media and are less likely to make purchases or products and services.

Building Trust

Although the TRUSTe report highlights an increase in public concern over the issue of privacy, this issue is not new. Most corporations have watched from the sidelines as hackers continue to carry out more elaborate attacks. They live in a state of denial. This denial is dangerous to corporate and the consumer. Instead of sitting on the sidelines it is time for corporations to be proactive in taking steps to protect online data. Waiting for government intervention and new FCC guidelines will not be sufficient in solving the problem.

Understanding Transparency

The growing concern about privacy should be noted for public relations professionals. Protecting privacy is often part of our jobs. We should care about both our clients and the public. Ensuring transparency is one of the ways we can address the public’s concern about personal data collection. Transparency is implied by several of the PRSA professional values and provisions of the Code of Ethics. Periodically informing the public about how an organization uses personal data can help calm concerns about privacy and in turn strengthen our relations and foster good will.

Taking Action

Where should a corporation begin? Measuring consumer knowledge of security practices is a good place to start. The TRUSTe survey revealed the following information about consumers:

  • 57 percent have not clicked on an online ad
  • 51 percent withheld some personal information they were asked for
  • 35 percent have not downloaded an app/product
  • 25 percent stopped an online transaction before completing it
  • 9 percent deleted an online account

The results suggest that consumers have a basic, but limited knowledge of security practices. Although they may engage is some basic security measures (i.e., deleting cookies), it is hard to determine the frequency of these practices. Your consumers might have different practices.PR professionals collect this information and then assist in providing basic and advanced information about online security and best practices.

Regardless of the industry, basic security practices, such as the ones suggested on the TRUSTe website can provide a great resource for developing internal communication policies.

Does your organization encourage any security practices? Are your customers concerned about the safety of their data? Leave a comment below.


Is It A Strategy Or Tactic ?

A topic that commonly confuses public relations students and sometimes clients is the difference between strategy and tactics. Confusing these concepts can lead to major misunderstandings between team members and other stakeholders. There are many ways to explain the concepts, and I will give you a breakdown of the differences.

What is a Strategy?

Simply stated a strategy is an overall plan of action to achieve a particular goal or objective. Think of strategy as the “what” element of the equation. Paul Smith, author of Great Answers to Tough Marketing Questions, suggests that a strategy “…summarizes how to achieve objectives in general terms – the big picture”. It’s not the same as goals or objectives. Strategy is built on a number of factors including research and theory.

For example, environmental scanning is a strategy to acquire information from the external environment to use in issues management and crisis communication.

What is Tactic?

On the other hand, a tactic is a specific procedure, method, or activity for implementing a strategy.  If strategy is the “Big Picture” then tactics can be considered the smaller details. In a sense tactics are the ability and available resources to accomplish the strategy. Tactics should only be planned after a strategy is created. Keep in mind a tactic is not an outcome. A PR professional does not write a media release simply to write a media release, instead the media release is one specific tactic (activity) to help achieve the big picture.

A tactic in implementing environmental scanning would be to set-up a keyword alert system to inform PR professionals about potential issues and threats.

Why the Confusion?

In PR education, students are often overly focused on the tactics because they are the most visual part of a public relations campaign and students can easily relate to real world examples. In the same line of thinking clients are often more focused on tactics because they are thinking in turns of public perception. On another level creating strategy requires a considerable amount of critical thinking, as a strategy is abstract compared to concrete tactics.

There are two great ways to help solidify the differences between strategy and tactics. First, analyze great public relations campaigns, such as PRSA Silver Anvil Award winners. Copies of the winning campaigns can be found on the PRSA website and are available for PRSA and PRSSA member to download. Secondly, find a PR situation (opportunity or problem) in the media and develop a series of strategies and tactics to resolve the situation.

Or course this may involve a little time and critical thinking, but the knowledge you will gain is well worth the effort.