Snapchat Hack Offers PR Crisis Lesson: Get Ahead of the Story


Google reportedly offered $4B for Snapchat in November.

On Tuesday, hackers released a database containing the phone numbers and user names of nearly 4.6 million users of Snapchat, the popular application that allows users to send pictures and videos that self-destruct after a few seconds. In yet another story of a cyber attack, PR professionals can gain valuable insight from how Snapchat initially responded to the situation and is now monitoring it.

The group responsible for the hack made the entire database available for downloading on a website, called

“People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with,” the site read before being suspended.

However, three days before the leaked information was made public, Snapchat posted a message on its blog explaining that an independent cyber security company had identified a vulnerability in a feature of the app that allows users to upload their address books in order to find friends who use the app.

The blog post explained that the app had introduced countermeasures to make spam and abuse more difficult, but the damage was already done.

Snapchat’s move to publicly recognize the vulnerability is a perfect example of trying to “get ahead of the story,” and it may help the company win the public’s trust back as it continues to clean up the mess.

Here are some more tips to follow when your organization senses a crisis approaching, courtesy of Susan Tellem and Dan Grody, of Tellem Grody Public Relations:

  • Take responsibility and address the situation quickly, and head on.
  • Lead the conversation. Don’t react (or let emotion get the best of you.)
  • Even if you don’t know the exact details, tell the communities you work with that you are aware of the issue at hand and are working to resolve it. Imply you will share more information as soon as it becomes available.
  • Consider creating a concise blog or short video response. Add a link or embed a Twitter feed on the homepage of your destination website so that customers and the media can quickly find current information about the crisis.

For more tips on crisis management, order a copy of PR News’ Crisis Management Guidebook.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene

1 Comment

Deals of the Week

$150 Off PR News' Social Media Summit

socialmedia201602-180x150Join PR News in Huntington Beach, CA on Feb. 26 for the Social Media Summit, where you'll be immersed in real-world, tactical case studies from brands, nonprofits and agencies and get takeaways in pulling and analyzing social media data; emerging social platforms and apps and so much more. 

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 o the regular rate.

$50 off the CSR & Green PR Guidebook

csr_vol7_print_digital-thumbPR News’ CSR & Green PR Guidebook, Vol. 7 captures best practices in communicating the positive relationships that organizations are building with their communities of interest. This six-chapter guidebook connects the dots between the effective communication of positive social contributions and corresponding improvements in bottom lines.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.