Six steps to protect your business from digital risks

More than ever, organisations are turning to digital tools to enable business success. Along with a host of new opportunities, the switch to digital brings a new level of responsibility. Some organisations are responding to their obligations for the very first time. Many are underprepared, leaving both businesses and customers vulnerable to a range of abuses.

Meanwhile, incidents of high-profile digital governance failures make headlines seemingly every week. How can you stop your organisation from joining the ranks of affected businesses?

This articles gives you a basic framework for Corporate Digital Responsibility (CDR). You'll discover how to manage the risks associated with digital and prepare your organisation to deal with breaches correctly. In six simple steps, you'll identify challenges, mitigate risk, build a CDR culture and prepare an effective communications function to deal with challenges in advance.

Each step has three key actions associated with it to help you build an action plan.

1. Conduct a landscape analysis audit

By the time a problem gains the attention of the public, it's too late to stop the media fallout. Risks and opportunities need to be considered well in advance of a breach.

Fortunately, your communications team is perfectly placed to audit risk factors in partnership with digital experts. With an overview of both internal processes and market factors, they can help you assess customer expectations and keep your data management compliant. A full landscape analysis will help you identify the potential threats to your business and prepare you to fix them quickly.

Key activities:

I. Identify and interview key stakeholders (such as the CEO, CTO and head of marketing)

ii. Run a workshop to map risk factors, opportunities and audiences (SWOT/PESTLE analysis)

iii. Write up workshop results and publish them internally

2. Plan communications strategies

Data breaches are a serious threat to your reputation. With your key threats identified in the previous step, it's prudent to have communications plans in place to deal with them if and when they arise. Make sure you plan carefully for every foreseeable eventuality.

That's not the only important role that the communications function will play, however. It also needs to support your organisation with stakeholder engagement on corporate digital responsibility (CDR), offering communications and reporting solutions to ensure standards are upheld. You'll need to plan a listening strategy as well as an outbound comms strategy to ensure you're one step ahead of the conversation.

Key activities:

I. Analyse existing policies and practices, channels and stakeholders

ii. Hold a workshop to map strategies to threats and opportunities, noting any gaps

iii. Develop CDR-specific reactive Lines to Take and brief relevant stakeholders

3. Build a strong community of practice

No single team member has all the skills to address Corporate Digital Responsibility. You'll need a multi-functional approach that engages with all key stakeholders if you want to succeed.

Start by identifying essential personnel to form your CDR team. C-level executives will be the foundation - they're ultimately responsible for digital security - but technology and communications experts are an essential piece of the puzzle, too. You might also consider including those most at risk from data breaches to ensure a participatory approach to CDR. Remember, diverse voices give you a better chance to identify threats and opportunities.

Don't forget that, when building your community of practice, your communications function can play an integral role in building a culture of digital responsibility.

Key activities:

I. Hold a workshop to identify and prioritise stakeholders

ii. Convene a working group of stakeholders and agree on an operational memorandum

iii. Launch the working group publicly to key audiences

4. Ensure effective horizon scanning

The playing field of digital technology is constantly changing. That means one landscape audit isn't enough; you'll need to create a function dedicated to monitoring your organisation's environment. This is key to understanding challenges at the earliest point in their lifecycle. With a close eye on the changing landscape, your team can ensure you have the correct procedures in place to combat emerging threats. Predictive analytics is an important tool for identifying such threats. Make sure analysts form a part of your CDR community.

Key activities:

I. Review identified stakeholders, policies and procedures

ii. Hold a workshop to map key stakeholder's sensitivities and identify potential critics

iii. Map prominent individuals and groups, identify their position in advance and develop engagement strategies

5. Plan your internal communications architecture

CDR may be a leadership-level responsibility but it's a team effort. Employees are a critical audience you'll need to engage with to ensure compliance across your organisation. To mobilise their resources, you'll need to communicate effectively with them.

Communications teams need to take a lead role in ensuring good information control, education and change management. Moreover, they're crucial for making sure you build a strong culture of Corporate Digital Responsibility.

Key activities:

I. Review existing communications processes and procedures, as well as past successes and failures

ii. Conduct a deep dive into engagement channels and map the most effective strategies

iii. Plan communications monitoring and analysis across a set timeframe (six to 12 months)

6. Plan to manage stakeholder engagement

Customers, partners and other external stakeholders have their own parts to play in managing data security. You'll need to make sure they're aware of their responsibilities, as well as the consequences of their actions. Governance is most effective when it's run on a participatory model, so include stakeholders from the ground up. Remember, open and transparent communication is the foundation of trust. Never hesitate to bring your audience into the conversation.

Key activities:

I. Create a deep-dive stakeholder engagement report as a framework for your messaging strategy

ii. Develop messaging and materials

iii. Build reactive Lines to Take and brief key stakeholders

Of course, each of these key activities represents a great deal of work on behalf of your team. However, these six steps offer a framework for organising your CDR activities to ensure great outcomes.

Written by Charlotte McLeod, CEO at Allegory Communications. Download Allegory’s latest report on CDR here