Sony's lack of informative communication with its user base following the PlayStation Network hacks and outage has not the best strategy according to crisis management experts.
As the company attempts to restore its PlayStation Network service after a hack attack forced them to shut down, millions of users are left wondering what is going on. The personal information of 25 million users including names, addresses, e-mail addresses, birthdays, passwords, and user names, as well as online user handles were illegally accessed in the hack. Since the subsequent shutdown on April 20, Sony has given mostly brief updates on its PlayStation blog as to when it would be restored.
Originally the company said it would happen within a week of early May. However, now it hasn't given an exact date. In an update on Tuesday, Patrick Seybold, senior director of corporate communications, said it is likely a few days away.
I know you all want to know exactly when the services will be restored. At this time, I can't give you an exact date, as it will likely be at least a few more days. We're terribly sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience as we work through this process, Seybold said.
This kind of lack of a response has made a bad situation worse for Sony crisis communication experts say. Joe Marconi, crisis management professor at DePaul University, said the lack of commentary from Sony on why it has taken so long to get the network back up has opened the situation up to speculation.
The fact that there has been no further commentary or activity from Sony gives rise to the question - just how bad was this? It gives rise to speculation, none of which can be good for Sony, Marconi said. They are creating a larger problem. Not that the breach isn't a major problem, but to not comment is fanning the flames.
Marconi said if he were advising Sony he'd have them set up a gamer's hotline where anyone with questions or concerns can be walked through the whole ordeal. If not a website, Marconi suggests at least setting up a website with a technical and legal representative on call to answer questions.
Legal counsel is what Larry Smith, president of the consulting firm, The Institute for Crisis Management, says is likely one of Sony's biggest problems. He said, like many big corporations, Sony is probably listening to their legal counsel, which is telling them to say nothing because the company might get sued if it details the problem.
While I don't suggest Sony spill its guts, they would be better served to be more forthcoming and in a better, faster way, Smith said. Some of these big companies, they take the attitude that we know best and we'll do things at our own pace, to heck with the rest of you. That's not the kind of goodwill Sony, or anyone, needs to be building.
Smith says Sony is gambling that they will luck out and people will forget about the crisis, soon after it is resolved.
The problem with that is, some companies run out of luck. I don't think Sony will, but they are gambling and I don't know why they would, Smith said.
Video game analyst, Michael Pachter, says Sony should have been more forthcoming from the start. The company failed to tell its users what had happened until two weeks after the hack had happened.
The biggest failure was in waiting so long to say we're sorry, and in waiting so long to say don't worry, we will protect you from credit card fraud and identity theft. Although I believe that they didn't necessarily know the extent of the hack, I think they could have said we're sorry that the system is down earlier, and could have said we'll protect your downside at the same time that they announced the attack, Pachter said.
Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna