Map Your RSA Conference Week

IT security is an industry based on electronics. Bits and bytes. Wires and routers.  Software code and containers. However, for one week each year, the thought leaders within this business existing “in the ether” congregate and concentrate within a few square miles in San Francisco.

The event that brings them together, RSA Conference, will be held just a few weeks from now. RSA is big. By its own estimates, the conference attracted 40,000 attendees in 2016. That’s the number of CISOs, CIOs, IT security pros, reporters, vendors, interested bystanders, and—yes—PR pros who registered for a badge to enter the Moscone Center during the event.

With that many IT security-minded people in a small area, a series of other events stake out ground near Moscone during the week, enticing those with their own programming. Some have become traditions—everyone knows about the Securosis Recovery Breakfast on Thursday morning, for example.

Your friends at Highwire PR have put together a map of the various events taking place during the week of RSA. Some are instructional, some are celebratory, and some are meant to be cocktail-laden. Per our map below, RSA is not one event, but rather at least 13. Feel free to let us know if we’ve missed one of your favorite events in the comments below. 

HWPR_RSA_EventLocations_infographic_R5

Also, make sure to stop by Highwire PR’s event too. It’s a reception on Wednesday, February 15, from 5 – 8:00 p.m. at Natoma Cabana, 90 Natoma Street. Our event is participatory; CSM Passcode, a key industry publication, will be on hand to host a podcast recording with several IT security leaders.

During the week, it will be hard to miss members of our IT security team across the show floor, as we staff meetings and drive PR efforts for our clients. See you there! 

Client Experts on the Future of Security

IoT, AI, Offense and (Cyber)Insurance

We are in the midst of a thrilling time in which many of our technological aspirations, from autonomous cars to highly advanced computing devices that fit comfortably in our pockets, are a practical reality. But along with the enhanced capabilities offered to businesses and individuals, comes increased risk.

For instance, IoT technology has helped create devices reminiscent of HAL 9000—but, much like the film character, it can be subject to major flaws. Fortunately, direct physical harm hasn’t been caused yet, but 2017 will surely be the year that cybersecurity stops being a news novelty to becomes a well-understood norm by all. The year to come is the year “cybersecurity” becomes just “security,” for even those outside the industry.

Taking from our all-star security client lineup, here’s what our experts are expecting in the year to come.

 

Affecting Trust

The savviest attackers are moving away from just data theft to targeting data integrity. Longer standing, reputational damage is becoming more common, especially in cases where the involvement of a nation-state is suspected. We’ve already seen these kinds of attacks in M&A scenarios with the Yahoo breaches and during the presidential election.

This kind of attack will continue to gain traction, especially within industries that rely on public confidence like medical facilities and financial institutions. Governments may also fall victim to attacks to spur on distrust in national institutions and processes (e.g. alleged Russian involvement in the presidential election).

Cyber Insurance Matures

Amid the slew of unmanageable threats, organizations will likely continue to increasingly take advantage of cybersecurity insurance. As the underwriting market responds, we can expect the due diligence requirements for underwriting to bolster greater spending on security controls. As such, we can expect security product purchasing decisions to be driven by cyber-insurance companies.

Expect cyber-insurance organizations to develop short lists of vendors and products that must be deployed to be compliant for insurance. CSO/CISOs will be asked by CFOs for these products and purchases may be directed top down if they’re lacking. We can also expect more vendors to offer guarantees and/or their own insurance offerings.

 

Finally Sifting Through Troves of Data

Machine learning and AI have recently come to the forefront across industries for good reason. Human’s cannot parse and make sense of all the data being generated today. Human’s simply can’t scale, work as long or be as detailed oriented like a well crafted and intelligent program, so expect further investments in neural networks and smart technology.

A caveat is that machine learning and AI will also be used for nefarious purposes. Hackers often mimic the same models as their targets for unlawful tools and distribution, often protected by the anonymity of the dark web. Just like machine learning algorithms sift through threat alerts, criminals will start using it to parse the troves of data they steal. Moreover, smart strains for malware (e.g polymorphic and metamorphic) have already entered the scene, capable of intelligently evading detection and even changing is composition to do so.

What do you think we have in store for the year to come?

If you’d like to here more from our experts, join us at Highwire’s third annual RSA Happy Hour—this time in conjunction with the Christian Science Monitor’s security vertical, Passcode, which will conducting live podcast interviews with some our experts.

 

How Bots, Voice Recognition & AI Are Changing the Consumer Tech Landscape

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today.

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today.

Last week’s CB Insights Innovation Summit focused on how chatbots, voice recognition and the future of AI are changing the tech landscape for consumers today. CNBC’s Ari Levy interviewed Arthur Johnson (VP Corporate Development and Global Partnerships at Twilio) and Jeremy Liew (Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners)  about how interfaces of the future are changing the ways both consumers and companies interact. Check out some of our key takeaways from the livestream.

You’ve Got to Bring Bots More to Life

At a high level, there are two main types of bots: bots that operate independently with completely automated responses and bots that operate through a messaging platform such as Facebook Messenger. And they aren’t exactly new. Bots have been used for over 10 years in customer service operations. But both Johnson and Liew agreed that in order for companies to build the next generation of successful bots, they must use personalization and a limited domain to compete in the crowded U.S. app landscape.

“There are some interactions that are better suited for bot technology today than others,” said Twilio’s Johnson. “When you have limited domain, controlled environments and customer service interactions, these are better suited for bots. The more complicated interactions may not be suited for bot technology yet, but there is still a lot of promise in this area.”

Bigger companies like IBM, Facebook and Google will have a leg up on AI innovations, but smaller companies can tap into this technology and benefit as well. Multiple industries such as retail, food and healthcare will benefit from the major potential that exists in chatbots technology. For example, if customers can access bots from their favorite stores through social media sites, it will make customer service easier for both customers and retailers.

“In China, we saw WeChat was so successful because the web and apps were kinda crappy as alternative,” said Liew from Lightspeed Venture Partners. “Here in the West, the web and apps are pretty good for most use cases. The way a user is interacting with a customer service rep was better than it was there before. To drive chat, you have to get better.”

Keep an Eye on Voice Recognition

Recently, a lot of companies have tried to make money building AI communication products. Since AI models are difficult to build and train, this task has proven challenging. The panelists noted that Amazon’s Alexa [used to reference Alexa-driven products such as the Amazon Echo] and Google Home are currently leaders in the space. These devices, however, aren’t pocket-friendly. To compensate, developers are making cellphone apps that work with these products.

“These are new modalities that are open to you and these can generate new use cases,” said Liew. “For instance, being able to call an Uber from my Alexa app isn’t a new use case, it’s a new channel of behavior for existing companies.”

Liew mentioned that voice recognition could be the next best platform because you don’t have to use your hands to interact with Alexa or Google Home. Even individuals who have difficulty using apps and web browsers or those that are unable to read and write could benefit. The possibilities are endless.

“It’s eerily scary how natural [communicating with Alexa] is,” said Johnson. “I can talk fast, I can talk slow or even with an accent, but it’s accurate. That’s the secret sauce. I wanted it to remember my preferences and being able to tie all these preferences and different interfaces together will be a special experience.”

Future Concerns Around Security & Usability

Neither Liew nor Johnson mentioned how these devices will be protected from hacking. If an Alexa is connected to multiple devices and gets hacked, what will happen? Will you still be able to use your Nest thermostat and operate your IoT connected garage door opener? Even with the capabilities of connected devices, an attack could cause private information to be leaked.

Usability will also be a major factor for consumers. Neither the Alexa or the Google Home has a screen, which may turn-off some buyers. IoT connected devices also are not cheap. Consumers will also have to decide whether or not there they see value from paying more for a connected device even if it does make their lives easier.

These platforms are the foundation of the future. Voice recognition will influence the way all types of people use artificial intelligence to make everyday tasks easier. As bots become more mainstream, more companies will try to capitalize on the quickly crowding market.

Companies will need to develop unique bots that provide value for customers and avenues for smaller companies to tap into the technology. We’re excited to see how consumers will benefit from these advancements in upcoming years. 

CES 2017: Top Trends, Tips and Tricks

CES 2017

CES 2017 showed us that IoT, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence are still major conversation drivers.

What were the big trends of CES 2017? IoT, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence. This year we saw exciting advancements, especially in the IoT. And let’s not forget Alexa, the technology that stole everyone’s hearts. Here are some of the biggest trends we saw this year and the products behind them:

IoT Finally Connects the Dots

For the past few years, IoT devices have dominated the show floor at CES, but this is the first year we saw IoT products actually working together. A novel thought, no? This has always been the vision of IoT but instead of taking the next step in this “connected lifestyle” we’re trying to create, companies have crowded the market with new devices. The amount of integrations we saw with Alexa this year was a bit overwhelming, but it signals we might finally be going in the right direction. Yes, there are still hurdles to jump in IoT– particularly security and interoperability, but CES 2017 demonstrated we’re off to a good start.

Diversity Takes a Front Seat

Diversity has been a hot button topic in the tech space for years, with the criticism of low diversity growth hovering above companies from Google to Microsoft. But CES 2017 proved that we’re taking steps to combat this issue as an industry. A number of female-founded companies presented devices and gadgets geared towards women, including CEO Naomi Kelman of Willow, with a smart breast pump that slides into a nursing mother’s bra and allows for hands free pumping as well as Lea von Bidder of Ava and its fertility-tracking wristband.

The Consumer-Enterprise Crossover

The most impactful products — ones like standout star Amazon Alexa — will not solely be marketed or made for consumer-use, but will begin to offer enterprise use cases, as well. We saw this back in November, when Atlassian ecosystem partner, SoftServe, built out a function to allow Alexa to work with Atlassian’s HipChat platform. We will continue to see this trend as IoT evolves. After all, what worker doesn’t want a personal assistant?

Capturing the Media’s Attention

Whether you’re touting a veteran crowd pleaser or a break out star, the biggest obstacle at CES is getting in front of the right people. For companies attending the show this year, the timing was very difficult. Many members of the media arrived days before it started and left after the first day. But good news! The show dates are a week later: CES 2018 will be held January 9-12 (Tuesday to Friday), which gives us all an extra week to plan. With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips for rising above the noise:

 

  • Start early: Start pitching press meetings and demos ahead of the show to shrink the competitive landscape. Press are grateful because they often find the show too large to see everything they want. The earlier you can get a product on a journalist’s radar, the better.
  • Pre-shows, pre-shows, pre-shows:  Pepcom, Showstoppers and CES Unveiled are simple solutions for presenting your product to press in an intimate venue. They quiet the noise of CES’s thirty-two thousand plus exhibitors and allow journalists to focus on your product.
  • Get on your feet: Don’t wait for journalists to find you. With over 170,000 attendees, most journalists can’t get through the entirety of CES, even in a full week’s time. You have to find them. Gather a portable version of your product and hit the aisles yourself!

 

Post co-authored by Stephanie Burke, Senior Account Executive, New York

Stephanie Burke is a senior account executive at Highwire PR. Stephanie supports corporate, consumer and enterprise technology clients, with an emphasis on campaign planning, media relations and events execution. From tech startups to today’s biggest brands, Stephanie supports and leads a variety of campaigns focused on building credibility and awareness of both products and brands.

 

 

Technology and PR: Why is PR So Far Behind Marketing?

The marketing technology landscape has been rapidly expanding over the past five years. In fact, Scott Brinker’s annual Martech Landscape Infographic shows more than a 2000 percent increase in marketing technology vendors since 2011. Yet, the PR section of his report remains relatively unchanged. What’s up with that?

I put this question to Altimeter Group marketing technology analyst (and the first writer to outline the battle field for the marketing cloud wars), Omar Akhtar.

“Tech is always ahead of people and PR happens to be an industry that’s dominated by people and relationships,” says Omar. “Technology has helped streamline and facilitate conversations but automation has been out of the question. However, it’s only a matter of time.”

Marketing Tech Landscape logo collage

Bottom left: PR’s slice of the marketing technology landscape as of 2016

The new era of measurement

According to Omar, measurement is generally the easiest problem for technology to solve in PR. It’s inevitable that the PR industry will be affected in the same way that advertising and marketing measurement has been overhauled.

Companies like TrendKite and AirPR are leading the charge when it comes to PR measurement technology and have been able to reduce time spent reporting by almost 75 percent (According to TrendKite research).

“Technology has led to smarter teams doing higher value work, with much of the drudgery now automated,” says Russ Somer, VP of Marketing at TrendKite.

He goes on to cite a recent presentation from the communications director at a major domestic airline who talked about allowing two days to turn around simple coverage reports and four days to deliver coverage reports with analysis.

“I felt like going up on stage to let her know that her measurement problems were over. Many leaders in PR don’t even realize that these tasks can be automated to the level in which we are doing it.”

Though not yet fully automated—TrendKite and other similar platforms still require customization of search terms to filter out low value media hits—the potential for artificial intelligence to essentially learn which coverage is of value to the company and which articles can be discarded will make instant reporting and analysis par for the course within the next couple of years.

These new measurement platforms are also starting to close the loop and show actions taken from articles. For example, being able to see how many website visits or sign ups are being driven by each piece of earned media.

According to Rebekah Iliff, AirPR’s chief strategy officer, PR’s legacy has been in surface-level metrics like impressions and advertising value equivalency (AVE), but digging deeper into the data can lead to insights for leadership and more effective PR programs.

“For example, a New York Times article might get thousands of eyeballs but fail to spark action with the target audience, while a smaller blog might drive a ton of sign ups and website visits,” explains Iliff. “Advanced analytics gives you the ability to see which outlets are generating better business outcomes so you can be more strategic in pitching media, investing resources to create stories for outlets that move the needle.”

Beyond metrics

Outside of measurement, it can be difficult to imagine how technology will be applied to an industry that relies so heavily on relationships and customized engagement. But one person wrestling with this is Joel Andren, CEO and founder of PitchFriendly.

Described by Andren as CRM for PR people, PitchFriendly helps PR professionals build lists and manage outreach in a similar way to Vocus/Cision, but rather than exporting lists it encourages teams to send pitches from within the app. Pitch templates can be put into the application with placeholders left for customization. Additionally, the system automatically flags media who have recently received pitches, and double-ups.

According to Andren, the company is integrating machine learning to automatically suggest media targets for a pitch based on the content of the pitch and analysis of recent articles by writers.

“Cision and Meltwater are all the same and, as a PR person, they don’t make you any better at your job. In marketing, the first technology is always about proving ROI. We are now building on this base layer of technology to improve how PR is executed,” says Andren.

“Think about every job you give to an intern. Those things should all be automated now, which can free up junior staff to invest more time in training. Technology has the power to automate the tasks that are causing all the employee turnover.”

Whether PR professionals embrace this in-app experience for media relations remains to be seen, and PitchFriendly enables users to engage with media via familiar interfaces like Gmail once the initial pitch has been sent – while continuing to track engagement behind the scenes. Gmail extensions like Mixmax offer similar functionality—the ability to create teams, assign contacts, schedule distributions and track clicks and opens—but don’t offer the deep PR-specific metrics on media engagement that PitchFriendly offers.

Will PR ever be fully automated? Not in the immediate future

PR is more of an art than a science.

Talking to the people driving advances in PR technology, it’s clear that the PR industry has a unique automation problem, which is also the source of great job security.

While data analytics, automation and artificial intelligence will certainly improve the efficiency of certain tasks within PR, the overall effectiveness of PR programs and campaigns will still largely come down to managing and drawing on a confluence of factors outside of the organization’s control. It’s more of an art than an observable and repeatable science.

According to Omar Akhtar, there will always be the need for Madmen and Mathmen (creativity in addition to data analysis)—we can’t rely on either one alone.

“There is always the chance that PR technology could replace people. But I’m convinced, there will always be a job for a clear and concise communicator,” says Akhtar.

“Technology could provide PR spammers easy low-value coverage, but it will be at the expense of the high-value media relationships. A higher level of [machine learning] discernment is needed before PR engagement can be automated,” adds Somer.

Even when it comes to measurement—the part of PR that is well-suited to automation—there are still intangible elements that make evaluating return on investment difficult.

“When PR is done well, there will always be an “X” factor and something that you can’t measure,” says Iliff. “But PR still needs to evolve in the same way that marketing and advertising have evolved with the help of technology.”

Where to Invest?

While PR wrestles with the complexity of relationships and colliding narratives, media budgets and headcount continue to fall. For instance, a negative byproduct of increasing marketing automation has been cut-price display ads and reduced advertising revenues for our friends in the newsroom. Just last month we saw more layoffs at eWEEK, InformationWeek and the Wall Street Journal.

As the pressure mounts for editors and journalists to do more with less, knowing how to break-through the noise of impersonal email to grab their attention will be increasingly valuable for PR people. Similarly, being aware of the digital shortcuts and tools media themselves are using to source content and story ideas is a key requirement for the modern PR person.

The data-driven insights that can be pulled from intelligent measurement and engagement platforms will go a long way to improving the effectiveness of human-to-human media engagement and showing the ROI of PR programs.

The technology we use at Highwire PR:

We’re interested in hearing from you. Where is your company/PR agency investing in PR technology? What new tools are you most excited about?

This blog originally posted on Bulldog Reporter.