Stuff and ThingsTop 50 UK PR Blogs 2013Top 50 UK PR Blogs 2013

Getting a Rise: How to make the most of your PR at Infosec

Info securityMaking an announcement, of any kind, at a major trade show is always a risky business, without the benefits of Tom Cruise. On the plus side, your prospective audience, both journalists, and potential customers, will be in one place and focused on the topic at hand – in Infosec’s case, security. On the negative side, all of your competitors at the show will have exactly the same idea: meaning that any announcement could be drowned out in the general tumult. Worse still, journalists won’t just be investigating your competitors, but also the conference events and keynotes; after all, if the UK Information Commissioner uses the show to make a major announcement, then that’s where the majority of headlines will focus.

For our client ViaSat UK, an Infosec 2011 announcement was a major goal for the company. Not only did it have to demonstrate its presence and expertise at the show. It also had to make known the fact that it had changed its name from Stonewood, yet was still the same business offering the same high level of secure encryption. To make a big splash at the show, ViaSat needed two things. It needed a story that was more than just another product announcement or self-serving survey. And it needed an angle that would guarantee a reaction and make it drive the show’s agenda.

For the story, we hit upon the idea of a Freedom of Information request. By asking the Information Commissioner’s Office, precisely how many data breaches had been reported in the past year, we could present the true scale of the threat to individuals’ and organisations’ sensitive data. While this tactic has become much-imitated since, at the time it presented a fresh approach beyond simple consumer or business surveys. To give the story a stronger impact, we combined these statistics with the public record of the number of breaches the ICO had actually acted on: showing that the vast majority of breaches went unpunished, with not even a minor slap on the wrist.

The story’s impact was immediate. The initial announcement was scooped up by the technology, security and national press. However, it also reached the attention of the ICO itself: which felt compelled to respond to the statistics and so nurture and expand the story. Thanks to this reaction, ViaSat served all of its goals at Infosec. It made its presence known through a hard-hitting story; it made clear the name change from Stonewood to ViaSat UK and had the added bonus of impressing the need for encryption on the public. After all, if the ICO potentially can’t deal with all the breaches it encounters, then security that will reduce the impact of breaches regardless is crucial.

Given the success of the FoI approach in 2011, following it up in successive years seemed a natural path to take. However, we realised that this would soon become subject to diminishing returns. First, other organisations were quickly seeing the potential of similar FoIs, meaning the impact as a whole would be reduced – it’s hard to interest the media in your particular ongoing research simply by being the original. The media would also be naturally less interested in an organisation that simply told the same old story year after year. Each year we modified the Freedom of Information request and the story attached to it, to ensure that ViaSat’s audience was always receiving fresh insights. This might mean highlighting the discrepancy in how often public sector organisation breaches were reported and penalised against the private sector; it might mean showing how increased financial penalties demonstrate the ICO potentially demonstrate the ICO taking control of its remit. Or it might mean performing additional FoI requests on UK police forces to demonstrate that the real scale of potentially dangerous security breaches is far higher than even those reported to the ICO.

Throughout these stories, we refrained from constantly attacking the ICO: while this might have seemed to have merit, e.g. when showing how the private sector is apparently favoured over the public, as a forward-thinking organisation ViaSat also needed to show it recognised that many of the issues were beyond the ICO and were due to the environment it has to work in. As a result, ViaSat never gave the press the same old same old but was able to engage them year after year with fresh stories. Indeed, it has reached the stage where ViaSat is now a sought-after voice on the ICO and security; for example, by giving comment on the ICO’s own annual report.

Essentially, getting the attention of the media during a scrum such as Infosec can often seem like a crap-shoot. But with the right data, the right story, a willingness to evolve, and a lot of persistence, it can definitely pay off.

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Coverage Cup round up w/c 11 May 2015

Coverage cupIt was all about by-lined articles last week with four separate Coverage Cup nominations. First up, the Elsevier team managed a double placement in Oilfield Technology and World Oil speaking about the way in which technology is enabling a new wave of resource exploration by processing the vast quantities of data generated. Next up, we helped secure an interesting piece in SC Magazine on behalf of Bit9 + Carbon Black’s David Flower commenting on the need for layered defences. Rounding out the by-lined article rush, We worked with Verizon to secure the placement of an article in Cloud Computing Intelligence for Verizon’s Cloud Director Gavan Egan about what companies need to consider when choosing a cloud service. Outside of the by-lined article world, the Centiro team continued to secure coverage of the previous week’s news hijacking of the EU’s plans for a Digital Single Market, this time securing coverage in Retail Week.

These and the best of the rest are below:

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You don’t have to spend big to make a big PR impact in IT security

IT securityIt’s simple at Spark: we find, develop and share stories. I was lured across to tech PR from a full-time journalism role because a tech PR agency is just as involved in the news as any of the national newsrooms I have ever worked a shift at. When explaining our industry to my Nan, I tell her we’re journalists who work on behalf of technology firms. And that IS what we are: I wouldn’t lie to my Nan!

Every writer worth their salt will know where to look for a story, and as a PR agency our mindset is the same. Just as a journalist will struggle to persuade an editor to send them halfway across the world (or out of the office for an afternoon) to cover a story, successful PR doesn’t involve a lot of leg work or splashing cash, it’s about knowing how to gather the right ingredients to put together ideas and content journalists will be interested in.

The good news is there is an opportunity for our clients to play a part in the biggest news stories of the day. Just look at Google’s ‘right to be forgotten’ saga, one which has dragged in big guns like the European Union and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It’s a massive story, one a small technology firm might think it would have no chance in commenting on to the press.

But our client, encryption firm Egress Software Technologies, has been doing just that: after we had monitored for breaking stories on high-profile leaks of data, we worked with Egress to create comment about an accidental leak of the G20 leaders’ personal information. Contact details for the likes of David Cameron and Barack Obama were mistakenly emailed out by the Australian Department of Immigration, a mistake Egress’ technology could have helped the Australian authorities to avoid happening in the first place, and to manage in the aftermath.

This mistakenly-sent email became big news, and after we had pitched a couple of paragraphs of insight to journalists we knew could be interested in covering the story, Egress’ comment appeared in several national newspapers, as well as hitting the security and IT press.

In addition to providing insight on breaking stories, we have actually been working with the ICO to create our own stories. Hard-hitting facts, not dull self-serving press releases. After Egress, put in a Freedom of Information request to the ICO, which didn’t cost them a penny, we worked with them on a news story about how UK law firms are failing to encrypt sensitive data and are currently under investigation by the body. Combining our news agenda knowledge with their industry insight, we were able to craft an angle that journalists would be keen to write about. 

It was great to be able to approach journalists with a fresh set of statistics, and we secured some nice bits of coverage, including this piece on Infosecurity Magazine.  The best thing about taking the approach outlined above is that journalists like it when you call them with these kinds of stories. There are no awkward conversations and ‘oh, I’ll take a look at your press release’ half-truths when you actually give the journalists what they want, and without spending big, this will translate into success for your PR programme.

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Coverage Cup post-election edition

Coverage cupIt’s been two long weeks since the last Coverage Cup with a General Election throwing up more than a few surprises. Bell Integration CTO was featured in Computing warning about the dangers of costly delays to IT implementations while the dust settles. At a European level, Centiro offered its thoughts on the EU’s plans for a single digital market in eDelivery. Away from the world of politics, Trustmarque featured heavily in a TechRadar Pro piece discussing the implications of IT spending tightening up globally and what companies could do to mitigate any adverse effects. Finally Bit9 + Carbon Black saw coverage in the likes of SC Magazine and Infosecurity, with its survey looking at how prepared companies are for Windows Server 2003 end of life.

The list of nominations over the last two weeks is below:

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Give your PR content a spring clean

vacuum-24229_640Coverage volume in target media is only one box ticked in our list of what makes a good PR programme, communicating the client’s message is also very important to us at Spark and we spend a lot of effort educating ourselves on our clients’ business and developing stories that do just that.  We are proud of the fact that when we speak to the press we can provide answers to their questions rather than constantly having to check back with the client and “circle back” to them (*shudder*).

Promoting the same core messages to our clients’ audience is an important part of our job but the story needs to stay interesting so now and then we should find new ways to keep our content fresh. Considering spring is officially here, why not give your PR content a spring clean?

Inject a bit of life

I was reading an older blog post by Jessica Twentyman the other day that said (very rightly) that it’s not up to her as a journalist to inject enthusiasm into a story and define to a PR what it is that makes it interesting. Kindly enough she does so anyway: “I’m looking for (genuinely) controversial opinions, real-life experiences, anecdotes and gossip, a bit of back story, a bit of emotion. Tell me something I don’t know already so that I can tell readers something they don’t know already”. Adding a bit of emotion and thinking of the human angle can go a long way to putting the story in context and drawing out the issues.

Read the news!

There’s nothing like a good news hook to make a bit of content current and interesting. Recent examples can help bring messages firmly into the present. This is true whether we are news hijacking the latest IT failure by a major bank, referring to some new analyst research at the top of an opinion piece or name dropping some recent news stories in a feature comment. Tying into some big industry news or a topic important to wider consumers can really spark reader interest (no pun intended).

Say it another way

While it’s good to include key marketing messages and certain keywords into stories for SEO purposes, using the same words over and over again can become repetitive. This is especially true if your competitors are leaping on the bandwagon and starting to use the same terminology. Words like “innovation”, “synergy” and “revolutionary” are all powerful words, but they are overused, and the English language is flexible – you can often get the same point across in different ways. We use plain English words on the phone and emotive language to highlight why we think our client’s story is interesting, and then we include all the relevant terminology and technical information in the final copy we send the journalist.

Being a good client means trusting your agency’s experience in packaging and delivering your message.  We can advise when to mix things up a bit to make it interesting to the press. It’s not only the journalists that we deal with that will be more enthused- you and your company will be pleased with the results of taking a fresh approach.

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