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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett

What Does the NSA Privacy Controversy
Mean for Business Intelligence?

Outrage swept the world when Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped the phone calls of average citizens and even Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany. Business people worried that their companies' information has been compromised, and everyone worried that their personal information was compromised. This presents two sets of challenges for businesses:

  • Protecting company information while satisfying the public's need to know.
  • Obtaining essential business intelligence without invading others' privacy.

Protecting Your Company Information

Establish policies for employees concerning who is authorized to speak for your company; what topics they may cover; and what they may say. Then, provide clear, complete, up-to-date information that satisfies those who want to know about your company. Wall Street quakes when earnings of public companies are pennies lower than anticipated. Analysts then search for the causes of the variance. Consequently, public companies should provide the information required by law and give credible explanations when their performance has deviated from expected performance.

Privately held companies must also be forthright, but cautious. Establish communications policies and inform your employees about the policies. However, excessive secrecy could communicate that you have something to hide.

Obtaining Necessary Business Intelligence without Driving Away Sources

Review company practices if you plan to interview or survey customers, prospects, or even competitors without driving away your sources:

  • Be truthful. Tell the people you talk to who you are, whom you represent, and what you want to know. Importantly, convey what you will do with any information they provide.
  • Keep your promise. If you promise your sources anonymity, do not reveal their names or the names of their organizations, and do not provide other identifying information.
  • Do not sell names of your sources or re-purpose information obtained from them. Someone who has provided confidential information will not want to see his or her information in the news.
  • Finally, respect your sources. Think carefully what you want to accomplish, and pose specific questions that relate to your goals. Resist asking so many questions that your sources clam up.

As a provider of information you must implement communications policies concerning company information. As a seeker of information, you must establish trust. You must first specify what you need to find out. When you approach others, you have to establish that you are whom you say you are and that what you say or ask is accurate. Also, you must convince people that you will use their information exactly as you have told them. Then comes the real challenge: What is the meaning of the information you have gathered?= Research and Writing Services for Growing Companies

© January, 2014

Research and Writing Services for Growing Companies

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