Case Study

Target Credit Card Scandal


Details on why we chose the case

For our Public Relations Case Studies class, our final project for the semester was to pick a case study that happened within the last few years and analyze it. Our group decided to pick the Target credit card hack scandal of 2013. It was something that affected people across the United States. Our group remembered the prevalence of this case in the media and the impact it had on the country. The breach continues to be a hot topic of discussion as national security is at the forefront of our conversations. With that, we dove right in.

Details about the case

On Nov. 27, 2013, Target experienced a data security breach that lasted 18 days. More than 40 million credit card numbers, 70 million addresses, phone numbers and other forms of personal information were stolen from Target’s supposedly secure system. After the crisis, Target communicated poorly with its key publics in order to assuage feelings of uneasiness with customers. However, this proved to be unsuccessful because the company lost the trust of its customers and did not provide enough information to the public. Though it hired an outside investigative team, none of this was enough to bring Target out from the hole that it created for itself.

What was analyzed

Target’s communication after the security breach hurt the company the most. Even before the breach, Target emphasized guest privacy in its code of ethics, leading customers to ask how Target could have let a breach on this large of a scale happen. The press release after the breach buried the lead and told its audiences that the issue was resolved at the end of the release. Not only that, but Target didn’t respond to the breach until five days after the hack. The most commendable aspect of Target during the chaos was its presence on Facebook. To learn more about what Target got right and what it got wrong, read my case study!