I regularly get client information that would make front-page news. It’s the nature of what crisis communicators do, and upholding clients’ trust and keeping secrets give us ongoing credibility and ensure we’ll be kept on as trusted advisors.
But are there circumstances in which confidential information must be leaked in the interest of public good? And what do you do when you have a rogue employee who violates well-established nondisclosure rules and blabs client secrets to the media?
Enter Booz Allen Hamilton staffer Edward Snowden. The 29-year-old employee, who started his job with the firm just three months earlier, took responsibility for an international media storm by leaking top-secret documents outlining the NSA’s surveillance of Americans and foreigners. The NSA hired Booz Allen Hamilton as a contractor, and, in fact, most of its business comes from government contracts.
It’s a worst-case scenario for Booz Allen and brings into question the firm’s security measures, hiring practices, and overall credibility. To the firm’s credit, it promptly fired Snowden and expressed appropriate outrage.