Nov 28 2012
“The times are tough now, just getting tougher - This old world is rough, it’s just getting rougher - Cover me, come on baby, cover me” – Bruce Springsteen 1984
Businesses work very hard to build their brand. Small businesses are no different. Establishing trust and loyalty among the customer base is essential to the longevity of any business. Many companies focus on marketing and sales relationships to ensure that connection between customer and company continues to grow. Social media, direct mailings, radio and tv advertising, print advertising, and data security and privacy policies all contribute to the growth of brand trust. What a minute! Did I say data security and privacy policies? You betcha! This is what I like to refer to as “brand security.” Businesses spend an inordinate amount of time and money on establishing a brand that customers trust. One of the fastest ways to lose that trust is to suffer a data security breach or to violate customer privacy. For that reason, I often refer to data security and privacy programs as “brand cover.”
I’m going to borrow heavily, and probably poorly, from law enforcement and military actions here. When you go into action, you generally have a forward team and then you have a team that provides “cover.” This team keeps an eye out for threats that may not be visible or apparent to the forward team, but pose significant risk. In the business world, one can think of your sales and marketing efforts as the forward team, while data security and privacy programs provide the cover. You marketing and sales efforts move the company forward and increase awareness. Your data security and privacy programs help to mitigate unseen, and sometimes unknown, risks to your brand’s integrity. In fact, some larger organizations, particularly not-for-profits, are more concerned about brand damage in the event of a security or privacy compromise, than they are the fines that may be associated.
For small businesses, implementing and enforcing data security and privacy policies can seem daunting. The Better Business Bureau, though, has put together a primer for businesses to help them develop these programs. If you accept debit and credit card transactions, you can look for services to help minimize how much of that sensitive payment data your business stores. You can also undertake an inventory to see just what data you are collecting and storing and how you are protecting it. You can also evaluate the partners that you use and how you share data with them. Understanding your data can ultimately serve as a very effective means of protecting your company, your brand, and your customers.