CommCore Blog and News

Unauthorized Leaks: If It Might Happen, It Most Likely Will

The U.S. Army has announced it is filing new criminal charges against a private who earlier admitted to leaking classified video of an Apache helicopter air strike in Baghdad in 2007 that killed 12 civilians including two journalists: The criminal charges allege pfc Bradley E. Manning also downloaded thousands of classified documents that illustrate the inner working of US embassies, disclosing about 50 of them to “unauthorized persons.”

The big splash was the dramatic chopper video that appeared on the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks: The site’s very existence and name should tell professional communicators all they need to know about the preponderance of outlets available for data not intended for public eyes. The tried-and-true warning to be aware that every cell phone and smartphone is a camera seems quaint when one adds to the threat the number of viral portals online that are eager to disseminate an organization’s proprietary information. This is especially true with anything that is sensational and newsworthy as this video was.

At CommCore, we believe it is good Crisis planning and prevention to establish rules on internal communications and what employees are allowed to document and blog, tweet, post and disseminate through any medium.

• If your organization has guidelines, rules and prohibitions about the unauthorized sharing any kind of data including photos and video, make sure everyone in the from top to bottom understands what they are.

• Communicate why it is critical to everyone in the organization that the rules be obeyed and why such rules are important to them, their jobs and potentially the survival of the organization.

• Recognize that unauthorized leaks likely will still occur. Plan for how you will enforce rules and how the crisis communications team will respond to internal and external stakeholders.

• Cultivate and maintain strong and honest relationships with all types of media contacts and relevant social media community moderators. These will serve you and your organization’s brand reputation well if you are forced to compete with a sensational leak for editorial space or in the blogosphere.

Some companies have an outright ban on bringing onto the premises any outside equipment capable of recording data. What types of contingencies do teams in your organization – or your clients – have in place for responding to unauthorized leaks? Does your crisis communications plan address the possibility of leaks?