Optus fears data of up to 9.8 million of its customers in a advanced cyber attack – including, for some customers, passport and driver’s license information, as well as phone numbers, dates of birth and email addresses.
It made the announcement through the media in the middle of Thursday’s national holiday and during the four-day long weekend in Melbourne leading up to the AFL grand final.
Initially, it didn’t text or email its customers. Instead it gave a press release in the belief that this was
the fastest and most effective way to alert as many current and former customers as possible so they can be vigilant and monitor suspicious activity.
Trust in the media is at an all-time low. Communications authority Edelman reports that worldwide only 50% of people trust the media, down from 62% a decade ago. Many more people (61%) trust companies.
Tweets instead of texts
It has been conventional wisdom that brands should adopt an integrated approach to marketing communications. Many channels are better than one, and more and more as audiences for traditional channels continue to fragment.
An integrated marketing approach doesn’t have to mean communicating through every available channel, but strategically selecting channels that are trusted and used by the brand’s customers.
One of the best channels Optus has is its own telephone network and it has experience using it to contact its customers.
Customers are likely to expect this when Optus has something important to say, and they are likely to trust a direct message from Optus more than one that has been filtered through the media.
They’ll probably even spread it by word of mouth through friends who also use Optus, giving the company a lasting role in shaping the message.
Instead, Optus supported its press release with tweets.
Optus has approximately 5.8 million active users, approximately 21% of the Australian population. They represent a cross-section of the population and have little in common except that they use Optus for communication.
Some Optus customers, especially those in Gen Z, may not use traditional news media. They would not have received the message through that channel.
Former customers dating back to 2017 are also likely to be affected by the breach, bringing the total to approximately 9.8 millionabout a third of the population.
Twitter is used by about only about 18% of the population, and the overlap with Optus customers may not be great.
What can brands learn from Optus?
As marketing and branding experts, we distilled three lessons, each of which was known before the data breach.
- If you have news that affects your customers, tell them before someone else, in a personal, one-on-one approach.
- Use channels that are trusted and used by your customers.
- Encourage word of mouth through your relationships with your brand community and loyal customers.