The Target of a Public Relations Crisis
DISCLAIMER: I am a major Target shopper. I am so addicted to shopping there that I considered job searching for a career at their corporate headquarters, for the supermarket discount. That idea lasted all of about three minutes, until I realized that its headquarters are in Minnesota. No thank you. However, I still consider myself a die-hard fan. However, even I was shaken into fear, when Target fell into a credit card fraudulence crisis this holiday season.
In the past month, Target has been the focus of a PR crisis, involving 110 million Americans. In a three-week period, Target’s computer systems were hacked and all individuals shopping during that time period were at risk for credit card fraud.
First of all, I’d like to note that in less than a month, over 100 million people shopped at Target. As one of those customers, I can tell you that many of us likely visited our neighborhood Mecca of deals and delights, more than once in that time-period. Granted, it was also the holiday season and Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, but still…
In immediate response to the attack, Target executives released statements and funded commercials to alert the public of the issue. These statements simply said that victims of fraud should contact Target directly to handle the issue. They also promised to share more information, if discovered.
In the following month, the uproar of media has died down, but many customers are afraid to visit Target stores and experience repeated difficulty with fraudulence. As a result, Target has experienced 2.5% drop in sales this quarter, compared with 2012.
It is my opinion that this drop comes from a small mistake in Target’s public relations department. Although they were quick to give the public all of the necessary information, they didn’t say what they were doing to protect customers in the future. Customers needed to be reassured that their money is safe at Target. They weren’t.
Target executives finally reached out Monday to apologize for their actions and say that it was only because they didn’t want to release incorrect or incomplete information. They also promised to invest $5 million into education about cyber-security. They also agreed to free identity theft protection to all Target customers.
These actions were needed and welcomed. However, they could have come sooner. During a season of warm and fuzzy forgiveness, Target might have been better off with apologizing before Christmas and the New Year. This mistake cost them a giant drop in sales for the last quarter and these penalties could linger into the following months. Thankfully for Target, shoppers like me still exist. We will continue to shop at Target and keep an eye on our bank statements, knowing we can always count on our favorite store.