When talking about the various elements of the marketing process in the security industry, public relations is probably the least understood tool in the box.
The basis of PR involves utilizing industry influencers to communicate your message and impact your audience in a desired manner. Security influencers can be industry spokespersons, analysts, investors, trendsetters, analysts, customers, employees, and even the electronic and print media.
According to Public Relations News, “Public relations is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”
Most security and technology executives refer to PR simply as “free advertising.” I must disagree with this notion, as it isn’t advertising, nor is it free. While there is not a set cost to secure media coverage, there is a cost in the time, knowledge and skill to obtain it. Therefore, to be successful in PR you must have a clear understanding of what it is and what it is NOT.
Let’s define some of the common misconceptions about PR.
Debunking Myths about PR
1. PR is not spin – PR is often mistaken for simple spin or propaganda, in which an interpretation of an event is presented to persuade an audience toward a specific opinion. Although there are some PR pros that run their firms in this way, it is not the common practice. Many more are committed to upholding the correct ethical standards with campaigns that disseminate the truth.
2. PR is not just social media – You’d be surprised how many times I tell people that I am a public relations manager and they say, “Oh, you do social media.” Although Social can be an element of a security PR or marketing campaign, and is something to definitely keep track of, the two are not interchangable.
3. PR is not just media relations – Media relations, or relationship building and securing editorial opportunities for a company, is just one facet of public relations. PR executives shouldn’t spend the majority of their workday emailing and making calls to reporters. PR needs to incorporate the entire cycle working smoothly together to be successful.
4. PR is not just sending out a press release – Some companies believe that as long as they send out a press release that generates “Google Alerts,” they’re running a successful security PR campaign. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. News releases picked up by outlets that subscribe to platforms like PRNewswire do create awareness. However, they do not guarantee awareness among key customers. In fact, many times, news releases are posted online in a section of a news outlet that the target reader may not be able to easily find or read.
The True Nature of PR
Now that we have dispelled some misconceptions about PR, let’s talk about what it actually is.
1. PR is earned media– Public relations is media or publicity that you do not pay for. An experienced publicist or PR agency works to earn key influencers’ favorable opinions organically. The goal is for the security thought leader, often a journalist, to view the client as “newsworthy” and genuinely want to write or talk about them amongst key industry stakeholders.
2. PR is real news – Traditional PR campaigns engage in media relations to secure news placements in print, digital, television or radio outlets. This is often achieved through the pitching of stories or subject matter experts to reporters. Additionally, the disseminating of press releases, media advisories and other materials to secure interviews are also common tactics in traditional PR.
3. PR is evolving – PR has moved well beyond news coverage tactics. Today, security companies are using PR to influence brand ambassadors, industry associations, distributors, integrators, end users and trade show attendees with the ultimate goal that these efforts will lead to the purchase of their solution, software or service.
Call to Action
So how you know if your marketing plan could benefit from PR? Below are some questions to consider.
1. Do you have a great product, but either no one knows about it or advertising has not resulted in the sales you were hoping to see?
2. Does your solution offer the same features at a more competitive price than the industry giants, but you only hear about your competitor in the news?
3. Are you an industry veteran who still gets asked, “What do you do again?” at industry events and trade shows?
4. Would increasing awareness about a product feature or changing the perception about a product eliminate your customer’s barrier to entry?