On Friday, May 12, a devastating cyber-attack, known as WannaCry, hit computers at more than 230,000 companies in 150 countries. This global ransomware event targeted a vulnerability in older versions of Microsoft Windows, negatively impacting hospitals throughout the entire United Kingdom, as well as Spain’s largest telecommunications conglomerate and FedEx, among thousands of other organizations.
With the expediency and determination akin to the coyote when chasing the roadrunner, many cyber PR teams began to disseminate their thought leadership and attack analysis pitches before knowing the facts. That’s because, in the 10-12 years since cybersecurity emerged as an industry, media relations has been a primary marketing tactic.
The discovery of WannaCry proved to be no exception to this rule. Newsjacking, the PR tactic of attempting to proactively insert key messages and analysis into trending news stories, has, and always will be beneficial when done correctly. But anyone who knows anything about today’s most prominent cybersecurity journalists should understand that these folks are very skeptical of cybersecurity vendor PR.
Even so, WannaCry prompted a media relations onslaught unlike what many cyber journalists have ever seen. Senior staff writer for CSO, Steve Ragan, was one of the first to take to Twitter to highlight PR’s over-aggressiveness. Said Ragan, “217. As of 4 pm, this is the number of #Wannacry pitches I’ve got in my inbox. I’ve not had time to read any of them so far.”
Steve was not the only cyber journalist to voice frustrations about the onslaught of PR pitches following WannaCry’s emergence. Network World reporter Ben Kepes said, “amazing how PR manages to shoehorn WannaCry into a pitch for every product under the sun.” But perhaps the infamous Swift on Security summed up WannaCry best: “Thought leader PR goes into overdrive on security events, floods journalist inboxes.”
Clearly, the cyber press wasn’t enthralled by the saturation of media pitches following WannaCry. But was there ever such a time when such journalists were more conducive to it?
The Love-Hate Relationship Between Cyber PR & Cyber Journalists
Earlier this year I wrote about how the media covered RSA, the industry’s annual trade show. In the article, I argued that “it’s harder than ever to gain the media’s ear even when your client truly has something of interest to them; unless you’re pending or post IPO, a unicorn or a speaker, of course.”
This sentiment is not unique to trade show press. CRN cybersecurity reporter Sarah Kuranda is perhaps the most outspoken journalist against what she deems as bad cyber PR pitches. Sean Michael Kerner, a long-time eWeek cybersecurity reporter, is frequently her counterpart. In one of Sean’s most epic Tweets, he stated, “20 PR pitches in my inbox already 19 of them are ambulance chasers for other vendors’ security disclosures. #TGIF #isit5yet”
Cybersecurity companies’ affinity for landing media headlines is not at all unique to this industry. What is different; however, is the frequency and diversity of reasons in which cyber PR is perceived by journalists to have failed to pitch timely, non-advertorial and on-topic news. This is further complicated by the transformation of newsrooms across the world – and that’s not great news for cyber companies.
How Media’s Transformation Will Impact Cyber PR
For perspective, the cybersecurity industry is growing exponentially, with estimates projecting it to surpass $170 billion annually by 2020. In 2016 alone, venture capital firms invested $3.1 billion in 279 cybersecurity startups according to Bloomberg. Furthermore, complete cyber ecosystems comprised of talent, capital, startups and enterprise customers are proliferating across Atlanta, Boston, London, Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, Washington, D.C. and more.
With such fortune available, there is, and always has been, a sense of urgency among cybersecurity companies to expediently go-to-market and to own the media narrative before the competition – whether doing so substantially expedites sales goals and objectives or not.
But owning the media narrative is about to become substantially more difficult, as media continues to consolidate publications and journalists while tweaking business models to emphasize sponsored content. Just a few weeks ago, IDG laid off 90 journalists, transferring its most talented cybersecurity reporter from Network World to Computerworld, and giving him a different beat. In April, Passcode, the two-year-old online cyber publication from the Christian Science Monitor, folded despite widespread support and appreciation for its content. Newsweek even laid off Seung Y. Lee, its primary cybersecurity reporter.
The future of the media is a blog topic for another day. But what is clear is that cybersecurity reporters are not immune from newsroom transformation. The question is – how can headline hungry cyber companies deal with it?
The Future of PR for Cybersecurity Companies
To many competitive cybersecurity company stakeholders, nothing is more exciting and validating than earning a headline or byline. Seeing your company stand out amongst the ‘noise’ can have a lasting positive impact on awareness, leads, sales, perception, morale and even valuation. But as both newsrooms continue to shrink and media monetization strategy evolves, cyber companies must realize that media relations, as it has always been known, is changing forever.
ARPR is leading the conversation about the #futureofpr – a holistic relationship between headlines and lead generation, content marketing, and relationship building – and it’s the perfect fit for cybersecurity companies looking to maximize their media relations wins.
That’s because, those that embrace the Future of PR can extend the reach, influence, and impact of each individual headline in a time when such headline is more difficult to land. For example, the Future of PR emphasizes the paid and organic social media to prolong an article’s reach and bolster its authority; it utilizes account based marketing, Google AdWords, and marketing automation software to engage and nurture target audiences at all stages of the buyer journey, and it employs email marketing, podcasts, and social chats to further brand awareness and competitive differentiation. And by the way – all of this is tangibly measurable, showcasing real ROI to CEOs and boards who struggle to understand the value of media impressions and ad equivalency.
Media transformation may result in less aggregate media relations wins over the course of a year; but the Future of PR ensures that each headline can have lasting impact beyond what was ever expected.
Want to learn more about how ARPR is leading the Future of PR? Visit www.futureofpr.org. For information about how ARPR applies its Panoramic Approach to cyber PR, click here to hear from one of our customers.