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Your crisis PR round-up: Matt Hancock’s WhatsApp messages, Balenciaga’s new Director of Comms, WH Smith’s cyber attack

Matt Hancock learns that if you send WhatsApp message to a journalist, they could end up as news

Poor old Matt Hancock. As if it wasn’t enough to have people voting to pour slugs over him in the jungle, now he’s been ‘betrayed’ by an investigative journalist leaking his private WhatsApp messages. That he’d sent to her.

What have we learned besides that Matt Hancock isn't particularly bright? Well Gavin Williamson doesn’t like teachers’ work ethic, Boris Johnson doesn’t understand statistics, and if you sent private WhatsApp messages to a journalist, they’re likely to end up in the papers.

To be honest, if you’re private WhatsApping anyone as a public servant, you probably should expect your messages to end up in the public domain. And it reinforces the old view that nothing is ever, really, off the record if it’s in writing.

Balenciaga’s director of comms appointment is national news

It’s not normally national news when a fashion brand hires a director of communications. But when that brand is Balenciaga, and the last time it was in the news was for using children in adverts to promote bondage bears, a new comms director whose remit include crisis communications is a different story.

They’ll have their work cut out. Balenciaga is known for courting controversy, and the latest scandal will mean everything the brand does in the future will be under greater scrutiny than ever before. Once you hit the news for the wrong reasons, expect that crisis to come up again, and again, and again.

WH Smith hit by cyber attack

WH Smith is the latest organisation to be hit by cyber attack, with the personal details of current and former employees accessed by hackers (the firm was quick to say no customer data was affected).

It’s the latest brand to be affected by a data breach, which has become almost routine for organisations. In January, Royal Mail was hit by a cyber attack that prevented parcels being sent overseas (not great timing following on from the strikes over Christmas) and JD Sports fell victim to an attack that compromised the data of 10 million customers.

The UK government reports that 39 percent of businesses reported some sort of cyber attack or data breach in the past 12 months. Every company that deals with data (and is there a company that doesn’t?) should have a cyber plan in place, and a communications plan to deal with it.

Kate Hartley is co-founder of crisis simulation company Polpeo, and author of ‘Communicate in a Crisis

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