Gary Davis, Vice President of Global Consumer Marketing at McAfee, provided best practices for creating corporate social media guidelines in his keynote presentation to Argyle’s CMO membership at the 2017 Leadership in Digital Marketing Forum in Chicago on September 13. In his presentation, “The Importance of Effective Social Governance to Streamline Crisis Communications,” Davis offered insights about what it takes to develop an effective process to communicate with key stakeholders via social media throughout a crisis.
According to Davis, the WannaCry global cyberattack shifted the way that McAfee handled crisis communications. McAfee – like most companies – was unprepared for the cyberattack and how to maintain consistent communication with key stakeholders throughout the incident.
“We were quite surprised at how poorly prepared we were to deal with [WannaCry]. Because it’s one of those things that’s out of sight, out of mind,” Davis stated. “We weren’t ready for [WannaCry], and I don’t think anyone was [ready for it].”
In the past, McAfee was owned and operated by Intel. As such, the business had “rigid” guidelines in place about how to handle communications with key stakeholders throughout a crisis like WannaCry.
“We exist because people do bad stuff, and when people do bad stuff, it’s implied upon us to go ahead and make sure that people understand what happened and help them get right,” Davis said. “Intel had an extremely rigid set of structures for the way we did social.”
Ultimately, McAfee took a direct approach to crisis communications during WannaCry. The company wanted to ensure key stakeholders received timely, relevant information about the crisis and took a personalized approach to crisis communications.
“How you talk to a consumer is very different from how you talk to a company,” Davis pointed out. “Having those different talk tracks down and making sure they are cut from the same bold but in tune for the right audience is super important to us.”
Although McAfee had plans in place to deal with crisis communications, the business maintained its flexibility throughout WannaCry. That way, McAfee was able to provide its key stakeholders with the right information, at the right time.
“During WannaCry, we needed to make sure that regardless of who we were talking to, that we didn’t spread panic.”
“Even though we had all the crisis communications well-documented, until you actually go through a [cyberattack], having playbooks and guidebooks and best-laid plans goes out the window,” Davis noted.
McAfee officials understood that WannaCry was an evolving cyberattack. These officials provided consumers, partners and other key stakeholders with up-to-the-minute information whenever possible, but they also realized that the cyberattack raised many questions and concerns.
“When [WannaCry] was breaking, there were a lot of things that we just didn’t know,” Davis said. “One of the things we didn’t know was who caused the cyberattack … and even today, we still don’t know.”
How McAfee responded to consumers differed from the way the company responded to partners during WannaCry. At the same time, the company recognized the importance of finding the right balance to ensure its key stakeholders were kept up to date throughout the incident.
“The narrative with have with our partners is going to be very different from the narrative we have with our consumers,” Davis stated. “How you strike that balance with who you’re sending that message to within those complex relationships is key.”
“Our primary message was to educate and inform. The number one thing that consumers want from our brand is to help them feel safe.”
News outlets around the globe were sharing information about WannaCry. As a result, many consumers reached out to McAfee for support – despite the fact that the cyberattack had little to no impact on consumers.
[WannaCry] really didn’t affect consumers,” Davis indicated. “At the end of the day, we’re dealing with these consumers who aren’t the most technically sophisticated people and don’t know the differences between something that’s affecting global organizations versus something that doesn’t affect them,” Davis said.
One of the key takeaways for McAfee during WannaCry was the importance of remaining calm, cool and collected. With this approach, McAfee was able to avoid the risk of spreading panic throughout the cyberattack.
“Don’t spread panic,” Davis recommended. “During WannaCry, we needed to make sure that regardless of who we were talking to, that we didn’t spread panic.”
Furthermore, McAfee took a comprehensive approach to WannaCry. The company emphasized educating and informing its key stakeholders and keeping them up to date with new information about the cyberattack as it became available. By doing so, McAfee was able to offer pertinent information to its key stakeholders and ensure these stakeholders were fully supported at all stages of the crisis.
“Our primary message was to educate and inform,” Davis said. “The number one thing that consumers want from our brand is to help them feel safe.”
Gary Davis is the worldwide marketing lead for McAfee’s Consumer, Mobile and Small Business (CMSB) organization. In this role, he oversees the strategies and plans that drive brand/product consideration, preference, and demand globally. Gary is primarily responsible for optimizing the CMSB business for success and ensuring marketing superiority for the Company’s portfolio of products around the world. He closely follows technology and marketing topics to understand how they intersect and influence the behaviors of consumers. Gary is also considered an online security expert frequently discussing security threats and trends.
Gary has appeared on multiple business and consumer lifestyle broadcast outlets, including CBS News, CNBC, FOX News, Bloomberg, WSJ MoneyBeat and several Bay Area television stations; and quoted in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Money Magazine, CNN, Forbes, TIME Magazine, LA Times, Huffington Post, MSNBC, PC Magazine, CNET, and PC World. He is a sought-after speaker discussing contemporary marketing techniques and activities. Prior to joining McAfee, he held senior leadership positions for more than 15 years in technology companies. Gary served on the board of directors of the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).