The Ashley Madison breach: 4 things every PR pro can learn

The Ashley Madison breach: 4 things every PR pro can learn

Last month, dating website Ashley Madison was hacked, and the personal information of millions of members was made public. Ever since the initial information breach took place, Ashley Madison has been facing a variety of public relations problems.  


Ashley Madison may not be making the best public relations decisions, but there are a few things that PR professionals can learn from the company’s mistakes.


1. Comment on damaging news

On August 18, Anthony Marci, Ashley Madison’s director of social media, posted a statement online commenting on the information breach. Marci assured the site’s users that a “full investigation” was under way. However, more public relations disasters have occurred in the past week for the company, and they have yet to comment on any of them.


Not only are more of the site’s users getting their information exposed, but so are the executives of Ashley Madison’s parent company, Avid Life Media. These executives, including the website’s CEO Noel Biderman, have had their emails breached and released for everyone to read. While this major leak of emails and personal information was taking place, a $578 million class-action lawsuit was filed against Avid Life Media for their website’s lack of anonymity. Still, no comment from Ashley Madison, despite the negative image that is being cultivated.      


2. Issue a public apology

Apologizing for the mistakes your company made should be the first step you make during a PR storm, but Ashley Madison has yet to make much of an apology. Instead of issuing a statement for the sole purpose of apologizing and assuring their customers that they will rectify their mistakes, Ashley Madison shifted the blame to the hackers. Although the hackers were responsible for leaking the information, the dating website promised users that their information was secure and kept anonymous.


Ashley Madison "deleted" files


3. Avoid false advertising  

In 2014, Ashley Madison made $1.7 million off of the “full delete” service they offered that claimed to remove all of the user’s personal information for a $19 fee. After the breach of personal information took place, it became clear that the site made promises they couldn’t keep.


On Wednesday, it was revealed that many of the female users on Ashley Madison weren’t real, and were allegedly created by the website. This tricked men into believing there were a higher number of female users than there actually were. Based on data obtained from the website, there may only be about 12,000 profiles belonging to real women. False advertising is not only hurting their image, but it’s also partially responsible for the $578 million lawsuit they are currently facing.     


4. Don’t abandon social media



Social media websites can be a great tool for reaching an audience of thousands with your public relations message, but Ashley Madison has avoided using Twitter since the breach first took place. The company once had an active presence on Twitter, but after their large-scale leak occurred over a month ago, only four tweets have been posted. They could be using social media to apologize, give updates, and continue to assure their users that they are taking steps to rectify the problems at hand. Instead, their silence speaks volumes to their disadvantage.


What other PR mistakes were made throughout the breach? What can their PR team do to fix their hurt image? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.


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