How is Sony Attempting to Turn the PlayStation Network Failure into Positive PR?"

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Answered by: Adam, An Expert in the PSP - PlayStation News Category
The recent PlayStation Network failure, in which Sony's PlayStation 3 network was hacked by a still unknown source and personal information was stolen from the nearly 77 million users worldwide (including encrypted credit card data), is about as big of a PR disaster a modern electronics company has ever faced and up to this point, Sony has not handled it well. The attack, which has shut down the PlayStation Network for over a week, has called into question the integrity of Sony's PlayStation Network and the faith individuals place in releasing personal information to companies.

Sony's first priority should have been to reassure users that there information was safe, and if unable to do that, to convince the general public that they had a handle on the situation. Instead, through vague press releases which perpetually confirmed the public's worst fears about the situation, Sony displayed both an incredible lack of PR savvy and the sense that they were ill prepared for this kind of security disaster. But with the FBI involved and Sony prepping to bring the PlayStation Network back online this week, the PR battle is far from over for Sony.

In fact this upcoming period could be the most important PR opportunity for Sony. So the question becomes: Can Sony now turn the PlayStation Network failure into positive PR? It is certainly a possibility, but Sony's current tact seems to be to continue to make the same PR mistakes while cynically pushing their premium member service, PlayStation Plus, on their 77 million subscribers.

Over a week after the initial attack Sony called their first press conference, and Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President of Sony said, "These illegal attacks obviously highlight the widespread problem with cyber-security. We take the security of our consumers' information very seriously and are committed to helping our consumers protect their personal data." Throughout this process Sony has attempted to paint themselves as hapless, innocent victims, and not as the giant entertainment corporation that they are. The irony drips heavy as well when Mr. Hirai talks about Sony's commitment to protecting their users personal data, personal data which has already been lost and is reportedly on the black market for sale. Despite this, Sony should have a fairly easy time convincing users that their information will be safe in the future, merely because this breach in security seems to be due to a number of careless holes in Sony's security system, rather than an unpreventable fact of the internet age.

The other aspect of Sony's positive PR attempt comes in the form of reparations to the millions of PlayStation users who have had their information stolen and have been unable to use the PlayStation Network during this time. There are a number of possible rebates and sales Sony could provide to its users which would hurt their current bottom line, but would more than make up for it in future good will. Instead, Sony has decided to give all of its users a free month of its premium member service, PlayStation Plus.

PlayStation Plus is ostensibly meant to give PlayStation users discounts on games and exclusive access to content in exchange for a yearly fee. In theory, the service should pay for itself for the average user who buys a few games a year. Instead, due to few games available at a discount and the small size of said discount, it exists primarily for a niche group of gamers who spend a large amount of money on PlayStation games anyways and can afford the $50 a year cost.

Giving PlayStation users this service for a month free is not meant to give users discounts they would not normally receive, it is a cynical marketing ploy by Sony to introduce and ingratiate the service to the millions of PlayStation users who either don't know about the service or don't view it as worth their money. If the discounts and demos one received while using the PlayStation Plus service carried past the service's expiration this would be a kind and generous act on Sony's part, but due to the fact that users must continue to pay for PlayStation Plus in order to use the games they have downloaded at a discount, this instead smells like an attempt to force the service upon a number of users who would quite rightfully have never used the service in the first place.

In the midst of one of the largest PR disasters a company has ever faced, Sony has ignored the welfare of its customers and tried to shamelessly advertise one of its products under the guise of charitable good will. The breach of security was obviously very bad publicity for Sony, but the way Sony has handled the situation has been far worse.

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