By Crystal Rockwood
A few years back Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) projected the annual cost of cybercrime to the world’s largest economies, U.S., China, Japan and Germany, at over $200 billion.* There is no doubt in anyone’s mind this particular crime is accelerating with no signs of slowing down.
Sexual harassment claims aside, when a disaster, manmade or otherwise creates negative news, there is an expectation by the public or from a fiduciary perspective, of an obligation to deliver communications with a company’s interested audiences. What happened? Who and how many are affected? How long have you known? Why were we not told earlier? What is being done to rectify the situation? Why wasn’t this in place earlier? Why should we stay or believe you? These are on-going questions, which, if not answered appropriately at the right time by the right messenger, in the right medium can generate after-shocks leading to even greater damage.
Once client confidence is rattled, revenue begins to slip and pipeline projects, offers and referrals start evaporating. The same symptoms are felt in the non-profit industry, where donors and other key supporters quickly distance themselves from the toxic cloud. Clearly, significant adverse negative news causes general business interruption.
A businesses’ greatest asset is its reputation
The most important role of the crisis management team is to get the organization back to doing what it does best and this typically requires getting control of the story or narrative and replenishing lost PR capital. Thankfully, a number of insurance companies also want their clients’ customers’ confidence restored and have created coverage specific to these demanding situations’, AIG, Travelers, AFC Insurance, Consumer Specialties Insurance Companies (CSI), Chubb and others have created specific insurance benefits in certain crises to mitigate negative publicity. Why? Michael Klein of Travelers said when introducing their crisis management expense endorsement, “This endorsement provides coverage to qualified insureds to help protect their business and its single greatest asset – its reputation.”
Insurance Journal reported when CSI announced the addition of crisis management/cyber risk endorsement to its commercial general liability policy, it “provides a sublimit of $25,000 for crisis management, cyber liability, breach of privacy and security notification protection, free of charge to CSI’s participating insureds on policy renewals.” The article notes higher limits can be obtained at additional costs.
Most businesses and organizations are loathe to call a crisis a crisis. As such, many are unaware; coverage may be available if the public has lost confidence in their products or services because of damaging media reports due to public disclosure of lawsuits, cyberattacks, etc. According to CSI’s announcement, “…such expenses include public relations, legal and/or crisis management expenses incurred with insurer approval to mitigate fallout from any negative event that might impact a CSI insured.”
Travelers CyberFirst® policy for leaked or stolen information that results in negative publicity may pay up to $50,000 for reimbursement. Chubb’s website indicates coverage through its DigiTech® for data breaches covered under Employment Practices Liability.
On the communications front, developing strategies for crises is like navigating the rapids. The situation and the players change constantly, random obstacles are to be expected from within and outside an organization—Board members leak sensitive information, executive management members see an opportunity to unseat disliked colleagues, competitors use the conflict to show why they are a better choice—all of this can and has happened.
Self-inflicted injuries are the worst. A well-meaning but non-media savvy employee or attorney, “handles” a media inquiry, prompting an investigative reporter to show up at the office requesting an interview with a cameraperson in tow.
As #MeToo seismic waves continue to reveal more alleged perpetrators of sexual harassment, it is doubtful if insurance companies will cover damages resulting from these claims, as prior to insurance coverage the entity knew or reasonably should have known that such actions could result in crisis response management costs.
Other than cyber liability, other kinds of situations which might warrant retaining crisis communications counsel include:
- Public disclosure of lawsuits
- Business disputes
- Employment lawsuits
- Investigations (Attorney General, FBI, District Attorney, regulatory agencies, etc.)
- Fiscal mismanagement
- Product recall, liability
- Workplace violence
Adverse negative publicity is distracting at best, signals vulnerability and can end operations and legacies alike. Check today to see if your policy includes a crisis management endorsement, it is never a question of if, but when.