Enterprise

Controlling the Narrative

How Email, Text and Slack Message Leaks Hurt Organizations

Mention communication leaks and a few prominent examples probably spring to mind: the Sony hack, Wikileaks’ release of the Clinton campaign emails, the leaked email exchange between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, just to name a few. The media poured over these cases and for some, the information shared was shocking. Others on the other hand were not surprised; an article in Mashable commented that with regards to the Sony hack and the Clinton campaign emails, people working in entertainment and politics were hardly shocked—pointing out that the language used in these emails reflected “how things get done” in those two fields.


These incidents, which received mass coverage because of the prominence of those affected, are not singular incidents only geared towards huge or famous organizations. Cases in which business communications are leaked and the media seizes the story are becoming increasingly common. In the age of technology where screen shots and forwarding of information is done with a click – our over social economy can and will share almost anything. The question is -How can an organization control the narrative of their own business, stay in control of it and avoid a PR or financial nightmare – often times driven by media hype, misinformation or misrepresentation?

Your Corporate Reputation

Corporate reputation is a key component of business success. It goes without saying that corporate reputation is an important aspect of controlling the narrative.  This must entail appropriately protecting sensitive executive communications from being surveilled or inadvertently propagated or shared with unintended recipients. Information seized by the media as the result of an employee who accidentally shared private information on social media or a malicious hack can result in stocks falling or deals failing.

The fact is however, this can prove difficult–in some cases reporters and media may not be interested in considering the full picture and may jump to conclusions in order to showcase “breaking news.” In June of 2017 the media reported, using leaked text and emails as their source, that a Wall Street journalist had been offered a stake in a start up by one of his sources—ultimately costing the journalist his job. However, the reporter was not involved in these business dealings—texts and emails had been selectively leaked to make it appear as such, disguising the big picture. The information released had been carefully edited to tell a specific story. In 2015, hackers also accessed the email accounts of several law firms and learned about upcoming corporate mergers.  A more recent email leak revealed the intentions of a prominent retail company to sell their retail brands, despite the chairman previously denying reports that he was planning a sale. These kinds of leaks can have serious repercussions on companies—destroying deals, causing stocks to plummet or resulting in the loss of critical IP and trade secrets.

One industry that has at times struggled to maintain control of the narrative is the Energy and Utilities industry. The recent spate of natural disasters has resulted in investigations and media criticism for the industry. In the case of the California wildfires, state utility companies were placed under investigation for potentially causing the fire. These investigations have forced companies to make the difficult decision between working non-stop to keep the power going to support makeshift shelters and reduce the numbers of missing persons or turning off the power as a safety precaution—and potentially angering the public. These investigations have had serious financial repercussions for companies—and unfortunately, instead of getting in front of the narrative of what was going on, with one source of truth to feed the media and public, one utility company’s market shared plummeted by more than $7 billion after the investigation was announced. And, in the case of Hurricane Irma, Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) had invested significant efforts to make its grid stronger and storm resilient—with efforts that paid off—after Irma, FPL was able to restore 50% of customers within one day of the restoration process. Despite this, FPL did not own the narrative of the event with their own source of truth. The media articles were quick to critique FPL, with articles asking why FPL was not bettered prepared for Irma. FPL was then put on the defensive rather than creating the story narrative.

All these examples lead us back to the question posed at the beginning of this blog. In the age of leaked emails, texts, Slack messages and media outlets eager to publish stories without considering the larger picture, how can organizations maintain control of their narrative? It’s critical that organizations have control of all their internal information. This means using tools that provide the proper security for sensitive communications—and email, native SMS texts, Slack and even consumer messaging apps just don’t cut it. It is too easy for information through those mediums to be forwarded, screenshotted, shared or accessed through breach. What is necessary for organizations is a communication medium that prevents inadvertent dissemination of sensitive information that puts the organization in control of how communications are used and stored. What is needed is an enterprise-grade secure messaging platform.

Vaporstream is an enterprise-grade, secure and compliant messaging platform that keeps you in control of your information – and keeps you in control of the narrative of your business. It prevents screenshots, forwarding, sharing or saving of messages by unintended recipients. In the event of a crisis, strategy discussion, M&A or legal discussion, Vaporstream provides a way for key people to communicate and collaborate to make business decisions—without having to be concerned about leaks. Controlling the narrative is about controlling the information you own – and how the world perceives your business.

Don’t chase your own story – own it!

Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle