Target discovered a serious IT security breach last month that gave criminals access to confidential data including customer names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. The company is still in the process of investigating the breach and responding to its aftermath. These events are never fun or easy for the company or its customers.
Speaking of customers, I give Target high praise for its handling of the situation, especially from a public relations angle. Target published a letter of apology at its Web site and in major newspapers. It is signed by Gregg Steinhafel, Target’s president and CEO. Although the age in which we live predisposes many to cynicism, I like the way the letter is written. Steinhafel offers a genuine apology using sincere words without corporate speak:
“Our top priority is taking care of you and helping you feel confident about shopping at Target, and it is our responsibility to protect your information when you shop with us. We didn’t live up to that responsibility, and I am truly sorry. . . . We are determined to make things right, and we will.”
The value of a simple apology often goes beyond the mere words. When a big company takes the time to publish an apology letter, that says even more. People are usually very willing to respond in kind. Therefore, not only was this a good action for Target, it was a wise one too. Additionally, I appreciate the very practical steps and assurances the letter includes. Customers will have:
“zero liability for any fraudulent charges arising from the breach. . . . [and] one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection . . . [for] peace of mind.”
Target was the victim of a cybersecurity nightmare—not a pleasant experience by any means. Dispensing what solace is possible, the formal apology letter expresses the heart of the company’s leadership, and it touches the needs of its customers.
In my book, public relations does not get any better than that.