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Coverage Cup round up w/c 1 June 2015

Coverage cupA week of news from the Spark team with JDA, Centiro, ViaSat UK and Egress all being covered in national titles. To start things off, both JDA and Centiro appeared in The Independent and The Mirror, in addition to a host of trade titles, for their research looking at consumer woes when it comes to online shopping. Secondly, through an ICO FOI request ViaSat UK discovered that thousands of data breaches are going unreported compared to how many devices are actaully stolen. The resulting media outreach from the team helped secure coverage on PA and Business Reporter among others. Last but not least, Egress weren’t going to miss out on the FOI action. Its request revealed that there had been a tripling in data incidents in the financial sector over the last two years.  This resulted in coverage in both the Financial Times and Daily Mail.

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Part 1 – Has Tech PR really changed that much in twenty years?

letters-286541_640This blog post about PR in the ‘90s brought back memories of sitting on the floor frantically stuffing 150+ press releases into envelopes in time for the last post.  Without the wondrous tools that account executives now take for granted, making a clippings books involved learning scalpel skills that would rival a surgeon’s. 

The other massive change for anyone born before 1975, whether working in PR or something else, is the Internet and email.  We had one email account in the office and checking once a week was adequate.  While the idea of going back to 10 minutes a week on email versus 10 minutes an hour is pretty appealing for most people, it was a lot tougher to get up to speed on new technologies or new clients without Google.  Finding the information took time, whereas now it’s navigating the information that takes time.  However, the ability to quickly identify what is useful and what is useless is still vital.  Was the article worth photocopying and binding into a pack for the rest of the team? Is the information worth reading or should you skip to the next one down in your search?

While the Internet took away a lot of the manual labour involved in PR, a lot has stayed the same.  Most importantly we still initially try speaking to journalists on the phone to pitch a story, rather than simply emailing them a press release. Email is even easier to bin than faxes and post!

In some cases, we are still promoting the same technology vision.  For example, in the mid-90s DEC was talking about the house of the future – a quarter of a century later my fridge still doesn’t order my groceries for me, although Amazon might make it happen.  Mainframe is still a key technology for many enterprises, and it’s still a challenge to get journalists interested unless you come up with the right angle.

There are also some things that never really took off.  Video conferencing was hyped as the alternative to flying around the world to meetings, but I can count on one hand the number of meetings I’ve had over video conference in the last twenty years.  Even when the option is available via Microsoft Lync, no-one really wants to see how they look even if it is just a thumbnail in the corner of the screen.  Kids born in the noughties may be different as they are used to Skyping with grandparents from birth, and as they are entering the workplace in the 2020s, we might finally see video conferencing take off.   In some ways it is bizarre that it hasn’t, as the conference call hasn’t changed in the last twenty years – it often matches this parody. 

A bit of nostalgia serves as a useful reminder for technology PRs is that one thing definitely hasn’t changed.  PR programmes need to focus on ensuring user adoption rather than promoting technological advances – once people are comfortable with something it is difficult to persuade them to move onto something new, even if it is better.  The current debate about how much time email wastes has seen a lot of press recently as a result of this speech by Professor Sir Cary Cooper.  There are tons of tools out there that are a million times better than email for collaboration, but for many of us email addiction can’t be broken.  If we can’t move forward, maybe we need to go backwards – in the 90s phone or walking to someone’s desk worked well and was a lot better for our health

In part two of this blog post rather than looking back twenty years, we’ll think about what changes will happen by 2020.

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Hunting down tech PR feature opportunities

inspector-160143_640There are often times when clients don’t have any news themselves to discuss, but that shouldn’t be a barrier towards getting press coverage. Features are a crucial part of working a PR account and a great way to get a client’s message out.

Become a feature seeker

Our clients expect to appear in all the right places. There is nothing worse than opening a publication and finding a perfectly targeted article with no mention of the client. The marketing team gets a lot of questions about how PR helps deliver leads and participating in a debate that offers a chance to convey thought leadership above rival vendors is an opportunity not to be missed. Part of the dark art of PR involves hunting down a variety of features from a range of relevant publications every week. It’s important to make some time in your day that isn’t dedicated to one specific client but rather just about checking in with journalists to see what they’re writing in general and what topics they’re interested in. You can often find that you have a client perfectly placed to help them with a feature that you might otherwise never have known about.

In tech PR, there is often a significant amount of overlap between clients, especially in terms of the publications they are hoping to be featured in. This means that allowing for feature hunting time can have a real multiplier effect in terms of coverage achieved relative to time invested.

Which feature is best?

As well as trusting us to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding features, clients should also expect us to know which features are relevant, which ones offer the best exposure to the most appropriate audience and which ones will provide the best platform to position them as a thought leader. If we know a client’s business inside out we can map out a core message and explain to the journalist why that message is interesting for their readers. The aim is to take the hassle out of the content side of things for clients – give us a half-day brain dump every quarter and we’ll deliver the interviews for the right articles in the right publications. 

Create the debate

However, as useful and necessary as uncovering existing features is, it has its limits. By keeping our ears open to what journalists are talking about, we can take things one step further – create the feature yourself and pitch it to the journalist.

Pitching a feature idea well requires several important steps; firstly you need to really listen to what the journalist has been saying and understand what they (and more importantly their readers) are interested in. Secondly, spend a little time to come up with an angle that your client could offer to the journalist and, therefore, help bring shape to the feature. Journalists hate lazy pitching. Cathy has already outlined why no news is no excuse for not delivering coverage and making sure that your client isn’t missing key features is a critical part of that. As long as you are hunting down as many relevant feature opportunities as possible and creating your own feature ideas, no news from clients need not be a problem!

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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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