The Next 10: Making Your Mark in an Evolving Cybersecurity Comms Landscape

#HWCyberSquad leader Christine Elswick shares insights into creating future cyber leaders

A glowing light in cyberspace

Election hacking. Targeted attacks on our power grid systems. Ransomware debilitating global network infrastructure. Hundreds of millions of passwords stolen from businesses in one fell swoop. This is the reality we face in today’s cyber threat landscape.

The continued onslaught of cyberattacks has essentially made cybersecurity mainstream—and effective and transparent communication in the wake of such a crisis is now a critical skill for any business to have. This evolution has created an opportunity for leading vendors to educate the masses about the critical reality of today’s cyber world. If done right, security companies have the opportunity to become household names within the next 10 years.

But the growing market makes it difficult for a single company to stand out from the crowd. So how can a cybersecurity business differentiate itself, rebuild trust in the age of breach fatigue, and educate the world in the wake of cyber warfare?

In this blog, I’ll walk you through strategic recommendations that will elevate your thought leadership, strengthen relationships with the media that matter, and align with today’s headlines.

Rebuild Trust—We’ve witnessed the expansion of mainstream cybersecurity awareness in everyday society in recent years, as demonstrated through television shows such as Mr. Robot and blockbuster hits like Snowden and Ocean’s 8. As scary as it sounds, cyber interference in the real world has moved out of the realm of science fiction to everyday conversation. Look no further than this year’s midterm elections.

It’s clear that cybersecurity is no longer only for the most technically gifted; it has directly reached the lives of ordinary people. The growth of IoT devices like smart voice assistants or connected door locks means we can’t ignore the threat of cybercriminals to our everyday lives. Further, with Big Tech in the hot seat for its misuse of data, it’s an opportune time for security companies to rebuild trust within the enterprise and beyond.

Security companies need to reach executives outside of the security world now more than ever to raise awareness of what is at stake. We cannot afford to let cybersecurity be a problem only for enterprise security teams alone to deal with. This means that cybersecurity communications cannot be limited to trade and industry publications, but must also reach broader audiences.

Integrate Your Comms—One part media relations, three parts press release, and a dash of analyst engagement. Years ago, this was the recipe for PR success. Today, organizations must take an integrated approach to communications. Leveraging digital strategies such as social engagement and influencer marketing alongside ”traditional” thought leadership is vital to amplifying a company’s vision and cutting through the industry noise.

On the influencer side of things, journalists writing longer-lead feature stories for publications like The Wall Street Journal and New York Times are increasingly seeking non-vendor sources, looking to prestigious academic institutions, think tanks, current and former government officials and in the case of WSJ Pro Cybersecurity, CISOs at non-tech Fortune 500 companies for perspective. Aligning with these influencers will help strengthen your company’s reputation through thought leadership.

When it comes to social engagement, it’s critical that you establish an authentic voice that aligns with your brand across all channels and leverage this medium to extend the life of your content. In the fast-moving, volatile world that is cybersecurity, speed is also critical. You must be able to move quickly and nimbly to get your company’s voice heard.

Get Creative with Telling Your Story—It’s no secret: the industry is crowded. Just two minutes on the RSA or Black Hat show floor or a look at the latest VC investment headlines will tell you that.

Never has PR been more critical to help the real leaders stand out. But it’s important that companies challenge themselves to be creative with campaigns to break away from the pack. This means showing that the company is more than just a product. It means that thought leadership should be supported by identifying independent thinkers with deliberate, experience-tested philosophies. It means discussing real-world examples (even if anonymized!) of how your technology actually makes an impact and stops cyber attacks in real-time across Fortune 500 businesses. These examples tell a story that pulls the reader in.

Don’t Forget the Fundamentals.

  • The importance of a cyber playbook—There are only two types of companies left in the U.S.: those that have been hacked, and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked. With this in mind, companies must have a crisis plan that will guide them through worst case scenarios. Highwire recommends going as far as involving third parties (who will theoretically support the business in a time of crisis) and reporters as part of the course.
  • Rapid response: Unless a spokesperson has direct knowledge of the incident or previous experience that makes him/her an expert on the particular topic, do not ambulance chance—it only undermines their credibility and frustrates reporters. As public understanding of cybersecurity grows, so too will the demand for thoughtful, nuanced reporting on these incidents. The experts who reporters will turn to the most for their thought leadership are the ones who can offer unique insights and help people understand the real impact, without spreading FUD.
  • Increasing importance of strategic events—A way for executives to talk about real issues and interact with like-minded peers, events have become a crucial medium for the industry. The cybersecurity community is a tight-knit group so building on those relationships in person is essential to becoming a respected voice in the industry. In recent years, high profile events such as WSJ.D Live, MIT EmTech and Collision have created dedicated cybersecurity tracks. CNBC and Bloomberg are other top-tier publications placing a heavy emphasis in cybersecurity across their global events, and newer conferences continue to emerge, such as the third annual Aspen Cyber Summit—held for the first time on the West Coast last week. At RSA 2018, Alex Stamos and others launched OURSA to discuss issues not tackled at the larger mainstage conference—diversity & inclusion, privacy & security implications, and ethics of emerging technologies. Watch out for the #HWCyberSquad’s upcoming blog on security events that are becoming strategic opportunities to build relationships and showcase research.
  • Aligning the business to key trends—Tying your business to key trends—both security and non-security related—will be important to elevating the brand and creating a connection to a broader audience. In the next 10 years, topics that will likely to continue to be front and center in the news include: all things artificial intelligence and human intelligence; AI-based attacks; data privacy and GDPR; diversity and inclusion; nation-state security and cyber warfare; the economic impact of security on a global scale; IoT and smart cities; consolidation across the security market; quantum computing and much more.

The internet has become a crowded, labyrinthian place to conduct business and share information. There are hundreds of cybersecurity startups emerging every month, each claiming to have the silver bullet to addressing the cyber crisis, and legacy players snatching up smaller ones in order to acquire next-generation capabilities to remain relevant. But intelligent communications is our map to show us the way forward and create an opportunity for the cyber leaders of the future to make their mark.

The true leaders will emerge through compelling storytelling that showcases their impact to a broader audience. The age of cyber war is just beginning and it will create lasting change on the world and the cybersecurity industry over the next 10 years. But one thing is certain: communications will be a critical piece of the puzzle in establishing credibility and trust in these uncertain times.

How Tech Companies Can Carve a Space in the Future of Enterprise

Artificial intelligence, machine learning and the cloud are three of the top areas that come to mind when I think about the enterprise. If you asked me that same question five years ago, my answer would have been much different. Flash storage and virtualization would have been the top-of-mind technologies driving buzz in the industry. To me, this is what makes the enterprise one of the most exciting areas of technology — constant innovation designed to enable companies to drive better experiences for their customers.

Like most other tech industries, from security to consumer to fintech, the enterprise market is super crowded. It’s chock full of large legacy players who have struggled in recent years to try and out-innovate emerging startups who have war chests full of VC funding and are trying to gain valuable market share. The net result is it’s becoming more and more difficult for enterprise tech companies to differentiate themselves in the market. Only compounding the problem, the number of journalists who cover this space is dwindling as well.

So what is a company supposed to do? In this post, I’ll outline a few predictions about the enterprise tech market over the next 10 years and how companies will need to leverage integrated communications in order to succeed.

Targeting New Audiences Through New Mediums

Gone are the days of the all-powerful CIO who was solely responsible for all IT decisions made within an organization. In the past, in order to purchase a piece of IT-related technology, companies needed to wait for the blessing from the CIO in order to move forward with a purchase decision. One of the biggest consequences of doing so was that the process took forever. In an era where end users and customers demanded immediacy, the old way of purchasing IT had to go.

The CIO will remain a very important role within any organization, but as more pressure is being put on the company to do things faster, such as develop new products or applications, others within the company will purchase the IT infrastructure they need to get the job done. For example, when developers need an environment to test how their application scales based on production data, they will simply purchase resources on a public cloud. Even C-level executives, such as the CMO, are procuring their own technology stacks to help them do their jobs.

This change in buying audience has a major impact on the way companies speak to target buyers. The organizations that will succeed will be the ones who can speak directly to their new target markets in the channels and mediums they frequent. While nobody will say no to a story in The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, those might not be the outlets that new target audiences, like developers, are reading first. Instead, companies should identify and focus on outlets where developers frequent. With a little market research and conversations with your own developer teams to see what outlets they read, companies can identify new outlets such as The New Stack that may be a way better option for reaching your new target audience.

Tomorrow’s Hot Enterprise Topics

Will the top technologies that currently dominate the enterprise media — AI, machine learning and the cloud — go away in ten years? Absolutely not. These technologies will continue to evolve over time to better meet the needs of customers. AI will become more intelligent as researchers have more data with which to train AI systems. Machine learning will be even faster and the cloud will continue to expand as we see more critical workloads being run in cloud environments (public, hybrid or multi-cloud). But what other technologies are going to dominate the conversation over the next ten years? A few of my predictions include:

  • Quantum computing: This is one of the most exciting enterprise tech races to watch. Companies ranging from large enterprises including IBM and Intel to startups such as Rigetti Computing are exploring ways to harness the power and promise of quantum computing to solve critical business challenges that today’s classically trained computers can’t.
  • AI and Human Intelligence: There is an inherent fear that AI will replace human workers, but that won’t be the case. Yes, AI will take over some tasks that humans currently do, but that will free up more time for higher value work.
  • Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity and inclusion will remain one of the hottest topics in technology over the next ten years. In particular, it will be interesting to see if the investments companies are making now will result in meaningful change or if we will simply start over again.
  • Next-Gen Infrastructure: What will be the new infrastructure that tomorrow’s applications run on? To be honest, I don’t know what this is and it is probably being developed in a research lab somewhere. But what I can say with confidence is that it will likely be faster than what currently exists today.

Breaking Through the Noise

The enterprise tech market is very broad, exciting and certainly crowded. In order to help stand out amongst the crowd, enterprise tech companies need a robust integrated communications plan that focuses on where target audiences consume content and deliver messages that highlight the business value and results that can be achieved.

It all starts with customers, and seeing is believing. Your target audience wants to know the kind of results they can potentially achieve. What better way to showcase that than with current customers? Leveraging customers to talk about results that have been achieved in either media interviews, blog posts, Q&As or case studies will serve as a powerful communications tactic.

Having a unique POV on market trends is another way to stand out from competitors, and helps to position company spokespeople as industry thought leaders. It is important to identify the trends that matter most to your business and target audience and to have a unique opinion on that topic. Enterprise tech companies should create thought leadership platforms for company spokespeople to ensure that each has a specific topic area to focus on in media interviews as well as speaking opportunities at relevant conferences.

Finally, data. Everyone loves when a trend or hot topic is backed by data. Conducting a survey of your customers or partnering with a research firm to poll target audiences on a topic will add credibility —  which goes a long way with the media and target audiences.

As evolving business needs and customer demand drive new innovations in the enterprise tech market, it will continue to be one of the most fascinating areas to watch over the next ten years. In order to stay ahead, companies must keep up with changing audiences, meet them where they are, and cut through the crowd with compelling messages that showcase the value being brought to end users. Many companies will succeed and many will fail. For those that do succeed, the role communications plays will be a critical success factor.

Glint Elevates Its Brand with a Broadcast Segment

Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (far left), highlights how incorporating data from employee surveys is important for feedback and starting important conversations.

Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (far left), highlights how incorporating data from employee surveys.

Seizing the Opportunity: Leveraging Its National Study

Glint, an HR platform that helps organizations measure and improve employee engagement, had the key components but needed to get in front of a producer to tell its story. To get CEO Jim Barnett on-air, Highwire leveraged the company’s first-of-its-kind national study about Silicon Valley retention and engagement as a timely hook to highlight Barnett’s expertise.

Effective Execution: Proactive Media Pitching

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Glint CEO, Jim Barnett (right), prepares for his NBC Bay Area segment Press:Here.

Highwire collaborated with the Press:Here host on potential show topics, and once the segment was secured, the team prepped Jim to anticipate all the variables of the fast-paced, panel-style show.

During the segment, entitled “Modern Day Suggestion Box,” Jim positioned himself as a thought leader on a number of topics, including:

  • Winning the Tech Talent War: How to keep tech employees from bailing on their $200,000-a-Year Jobs
  • The Intersection of AI and HR: Why AI isn’t the future of the workplace – It’s here now
  • High-Touch Solutions to Hands-Off Problems: How AI addresses inclusion and diversity issues in Silicon Valley
  • Avoiding Popularity Contest at Work: Balancing company needs with employee wants (without diving off the deep end)

Positive Results: Reaching a Wide Audience

With about 5.25 million people in 9 counties accessing NBC Bay Area, broadcast opportunities like this one allowed Glint to expand and reinforce its brand recognition throughout Silicon Valley.

While there is lots of pre-show work, it doesn’t end when you leave the studio. In this case, Highwire ensured there was a good rapport built with the Press:Here host and panelists in order to encourage future conversations with Barnett.

Click here for more from Jim’s Press:Here segment.

What’s Hot in the Enterprise

VMWorld is only days away—sounding off the beginning of the enterprise conference season. Tracks range from discussing the software-defined data center and the ever-growing cloud, to security and the future of IT strategies in the face of evolving technology.

We can’t wait to see what new developments arise as some of the greatest minds in the space come together to talk shop. In light of what is sure to be an exciting month, here are few trends we think will be of note:

The Coming of Age of the Hybrid Cloud Era

Cloud-based enterprise IT has gone far in the last year, continuously going beyond the expectations with new applications, digital tools and software defined infrastructures that have enabled never before seen flexibility and efficiency.

But the cloud’s role in the enterprise has not reached its full potential. On-premises and hosted cloud environments are still too disjointed, a problem compounded by compliance, governance and a fear of change. The result is on-premises solutions that offer control but slow app delivery in one hand, and the public cloud that reduces control in exchange for speed in the other.

In the coming months and into next year, we will see the hybrid cloud become the norm, mature in its allocation within the enterprise. Gone will be the days in which the cloud was only there for support—becoming the center of business critical workflows.

Data Control and Sovereignty

With the major role the cloud now plays in many business processes, especially in distributed organizations, data management is a major concern. This is particularly important for companies that conduct business in places with restrictive data sovereignty laws like the EU.

As businesses continue to grow overseas, methods of data segmentation and hosting will be streamlined to accommodate changing international laws and consumer/customer concerns about security. And hybrid cloud deployments will be at the center as they make possible the housing and distribution of data wherever it is needed.

Software-Defined Networking

Enterprises are right there with consumers, adopting the latest digital tools. According to Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, even companies outside the realm of tech are buying up tech companies to help them transition into a new era in which digitization has taken center stage. A trend further instigated by the tremendous focus on data and what can be done with it when collected and analyzed.

With time, software will get closer to the center of today’s businesses and those to come. We can expect even more new products and business models built for and around the software-defined organization.

What do you think is next for the enterprise?