How to get off the Rich List

Being thrust into the limelight on the back of sudden or accumulated wealth creation can be a daunting and often painful experience for many people. Once you have made a Rich List, for instance, it is almost impossible to come off it. Many PRs and communication experts have tried speaking to The Sunday Times to persuade them to remove their clients from the list but few if any have succeeded. One of the main reasons for this is that a lot of the information they use to compile the Sunday Times is in publicly available company and corporate documentation. For the journalists that information is fair game.

They are harvesting your information

The use of publicly available information is on the increase in journalism, and one of the first ports of call for any reporter is online. Journalists no longer have the money or time to leave the office much these days because they have so much space to fill: social media, blogs, the newspaper’s website and of course the paper itself. So they have become experts at harvesting information online. This is one area where those who are preparing to suddenly come under media scrutiny because of their wealth can prepare for. It’s called being as 'digitally private' as possible and is something every large family business or soon to be high profile individual should be doing about this day in day out.

Your Ten Point Plan

Below are some of the key parts of our plan to maintain your digital privacy and manage your online profile so when your name does become prominent, you are prepared. It can keep you private from hostile journalists wanting to write about your personal life and wealth and also cyber hackers and criminals wanting to steal your private information.

Here are ten key points to be aware of in order to maximise your digital privacy and manage your online profile:

1. Know your digital footprint 

We only know around 65% of what’s out there on the internet about us so knowing what others can see like journalists is crucial. Every individual and family leave a ‘digital footprint’, an ever-expanding trail of publicly available information on the web, whether posted deliberately or leaked unintentionally. If you know what’s online by commissioning a professional reputation audit on you and your family, you can reduce your footprint via a number of methods.

2. Beware of social engineering

Never advertise your email address online. Not only are staff email addresses available on websites, but their movements and business plans can be gleaned from blogs, news stories and social media. This helps the media find valuable information and fraudsters to create believable phishing emails which people click on allowing the criminals into the IT system. Research has shown that some attackers can ‘sit’ in a system harvesting information for 90 days without being caught.

3. Lock down all internet domains which have your name in

Register as many domains as possible with your family name in to avoid reputational or security-related attacks. Criminals often blackmail families having registered a domain threatening to blacken their names on the internet if they don’t pay up. Activist groups often launch campaigns against families using this method.

4. Own your search engine profile

Search engines are the first port of call in a cursory search or due diligence as a result of the way their algorithms rank content at will. Legacy, irrelevant and sometimes damaging entries can often outrank more positive, contemporary news. It is crucial to manage your online profile by using a specialist consultancy. If you don’t own your profile, negative news will naturally rise to the top of your profile.

5. Apply privacy settings on all social media accounts

The media are increasingly accessing social media feeds like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn to harvest information and use it inappropriately. There are privacy settings that can be used which won’t harm your enjoyment especially if you are of an age where social media is socially important.

6. Educate your family the dangers of social media

We conduct training sessions in a sensitive way. Your message should be clear: enjoy social media but use it safely, and be aware of the risks. This can be hugely valuable in preparing ‘the next generation’ for succession, who will in time be under the spotlight.

7. Crisis communications planning

Plan, plan and plan again. If your family suddenly gets catapulted into the limelight what will you do and how will you tackle it? Having a plan in place means you can immediately refer to it and containing a crisis if it ever happens.

8. Train your family and staff on a communications crisis

The more educated staff are, the more prepared they will be. But the ever-changing nature of a crisis in the digital age means training will not be a one-off. Families should regularly run training sessions to really help raise awareness.

9. Monitor every mention of your family online 

Use specialist Threat Monitoring software to monitor and identify when you are mentioned and crucially when that mention is destined for a broad audience through social media or search engines. This can be crucial in heading off a communications crisis before it happens.

10. Make cyber a board issue

Regulatory pressure means that consumer data theft through cybercrime is well-reported. The threat facing organisations in other sectors, be it from (often state-sponsored) corporate espionage or hacktivism is less widely reported and boards remain in the dark, deferring to the IT department for assurances of (technical) mitigation and strength. CEOs and chairmen should be involved from the start to inform, pinpoint and quantify the risk to your family business.

We can help you now

If any of the points above concern you and your family we are able to help you with a cyber audit, training and strategic plan going forward. Please contact us if you are interested. Contact us before it is too late.