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Senior Features Editor

Security Incident Disclosure: Ready for the Close-Up

Feb 01, 20042 mins
Data and Information SecurityIT LeadershipSecurity

Who do you feed to the media wolves?

When there’s news that needs announcing, who gets to stand in front of the cameras, talk to the local newspapers or contact customers? If you’re a security officer, the answer most likely is, “Not you.”

You’re well-informed and your title will convey seriousness of purpose. But, unfortunately, using a security officer as spokesman can often convey unintended messages along with the right ones.

“Even if the break is significant, you’re not going to see a security guy out there,” says John J. Melia Jr., chief risk officer at Home Loan and Investment Bank. “You don’t want to alarm the 80-year-old people at home watching the news.”

Even if the security executive stays superbly on message, the media often can’t resist the urge to play to the stereotype, says Melia. “If they see someone from the security side, they’re going to want to put him in front of a fire truck and blow the story up.”

Finally, there is that touchy subject of personal presentation. “There is a perception of the security guy as the one with the bad tie,” Melia concedes. “And many security people still come off sounding like a cop [when put] in front of the camera.”

So, should you turn to the CEO or some other C-level executive? Not necessarily. Always use a C-level signature on written communications to customers and business partners, experts agree, but save the top executive’s on-camera appearances for all but the most life-threatening security situations.

That leaves the corporate communications person to carry most of the water. Corpcomm and media relations professionals come ready-made with bland titles that are designed to slide under the radar. They also often come with a Rolex or a set of pearlsor both.

The job of the security executive, says Melia, is to make sure the spokesman is fully briefed, and then to get out of the way. “As a security person, you shouldn’t be standing in front of the cameras. Your core skill should be to ensure the correct message gets across, but you don’t have to be the deliverer,” he says. “Leave that to the professionals.”