Effective Coordination of Both Internal and External Communication

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Corporate communication is defined as a function of management that offers a framework for the effective coordination of both internal and external communication. As mentioned by Cornelissen, 2017, “The objective of building, maintaining and protecting the company’s reputation is the core task of corporate communication practitioners.”. In other words, corporate communication can be characterised as a function of management responsible for supervising and synchronising the work done by communication practitioners in various specialist disciplines such as media relations, internal communications or public affairs.

Therefore, it can be summarized that corporate communication has an overall purpose of establishing and maintaining favourable reputations with stakeholder groups upon which the organisation is dependent on. This essay aims to critically assess how the role of corporate communications strategies impacted Target, with further analysis of Data Breach Scandal crisis case study that occurred to Target in 2013. It will discuss the different types of corporate communication strategies implemented by Target to respond to this crisis and deeply evaluate how these strategies were successful or/and unsuccessful.

Target Corporation is the 8th largest retailer in the United States with 1,871 stores in the U.S alone. Target was ranked 89th under World’s Most Valuable Brands 2017 in Forbes. With over tens of millions of customers, any form of corporate crisis on Target will be under critical investigation and the requirement of solid corporate communication strategies to tackle crisis is essential.

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On November 27, 2013, Target personnel discovered a data breach, notifying the US Justice Department by December 13th. Customer’s personal information and credit card information were stolen between November 27th and December 15th 2013. As many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts were compromised during Black Friday weekend. Unfortunately, due to deficient cyber security of anti-malware software, it was too late by the time the breach was discovered. 

These stolen and hacked credit / debit card details were then put on the black market in the dark web to be sold and bought. Crisis response should be done quickly, accurately ad consistently while expressing concern for victims. Firstly, an identification of crisis type is required. This crisis type falls under “severe reputational threat” which could have been prevented with adequate software. Due to human-error accidents by not implementing firm software, the breach occurred. Secondly, factors influencing the attribution of the crisis must be found. 

These factors include the veracity of evidence, severity of the damage from the crisis, and the performance history such as prior reputation or crisis history. Finally, the appropriate crisis response strategies has to be implemented. According to Benoit, Cornelissen and Coombs, these corporate communication strategies to tackle crisis include; nonexistence strategies, Distance and Diminish strategies, Association strategies, Suffering strategies, Acceptance strategies and Accommodation strategies. 

Crisis is a situation that risks public safety, fall under intense media or government scrutiny, damage a company’s reputation and interfere with normal operation business. With reference to Cornelissen’s timeline of how an issue develops into a crisis, the breach falls under latent issue on 13th December, with the discovering of the breach, to a crisis on 18th December, when Brian Krebs, a security expert, broke the story to public, forcing Target to answer to public. On 18th December, millions of customer’s safeties were threatened, the media was flooded with news regarding Target’s data breach, damaging Target’s brand reputation and interfered operation business. Thus, supporting the fact that the issue has risen to a crisis level on this date.

The Data Breach has caused a drop in profit of Target’s fourth quarter, 2013, by 46% compared with the previous year. Furthermore, an estimate expenditure of $100 million is expected to replace credit card payment terminals. The severity of this crisis can be viewed by more than 587,000 tweets regarding Target’s credit card breach being made within 3 weeks after the hack. A rate of 12,000 tweets per hour. 

Target has chosen a non-existence strategy which includes denial and clarification. Target’s central point of failure to successfully tackle this crisis was not addressing the data breach to the public at first hand. Brian Krebs breaking the story (18th December) before Target themselves (19th December) has caused the company to go on defense, showing absolute denial. During a crisis, communication with the news media, social media, publics, internal publics, external publics, and lawyers are necessary  

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