Expert Insight into the Chicago Tech Scene & What Lies Ahead

Chicago had 14,014 tech businesses in 2017 and 341,600 tech workers across all industries, an increase of 4,000 from the year prior, tying the city with Boston for the second most innovative in the nation. And according to a PitchBook report, Chicago companies now offer the highest venture capital returns of any startup hub in the U.S., with 81 percent of Chicago exits having a 3-to-10x return. So, as we sprint to stay ahead of the ‘next big thing’ in tech here in Chicago, we want to know: what helped propel the city to stardom and what is needed to maintain the Windy City’s spot as a leading innovator?

Highwire’s 10th anniversary this October gave us the perfect opportunity to reflect on the Chicago tech scene and take a look at what’s to come in the next ten years. For a deeper dive, we went straight to the experts. Highwire’s Chicago office hosted some of the sharpest minds in tech and communications for a panel discussion. We discussed the thriving tech landscape in the city, how it’s evolved and unique new PR tactics companies are using to get the word out in an increasingly competitive landscape. Here’s what we learned:

  • #Humblebrag, Y’all: Lisa Jillson, head of marketing at Arity, believes Chicago-based companies need to start humble bragging about themselves more. True to Midwest values, local tech companies aren’t giving themselves enough credit, and it’s time to start. Reporters, venture capital firms and investors are seeking those who are looking at industry challenges from a different viewpoint and, as a result, have a story to tell. It is becoming increasingly tough for companies that lurk in the shadows to build their brand. Stay grounded Midwesterners, but start walking the walk and talking the talk.
  • Deviate From the Norm: Ally Marotti, tech reporter for the Chicago Tribune, sparked an a-ha moment in the audience when she shared the number one element she looks for in her reporting: “news is a deviation from the norm.” Yes, pitches about a company’s 20-year anniversary are fun, but is it news? Does it offer a fresh perspective on an otherwise stale topic or challenge the status quo, and why now? These are the questions communications professionals need to be asking themselves. News is a deviation from the norm — that’s what makes a story.
  • Utility, Relatability and Entertainment: Hassan Ali, former creative director for the Onion, doubled as our comedian for the night while providing three key components to succeeding in today’s tech marketing world. When marketing a product, Hassan said it has to challenge what it was originally meant to do or be. Finding new ways to look at an old product is imperative to appeal to consumers across all generations. The brand strategy needs to be relatable and entertaining. Companies that can tie humor into a campaign or take a risk to turn the brand into something it wasn’t intended to be are the thought leaders who can dominate the market.
  • The Future of Tech is Female: Betsy Ziegler, CEO for 1871, garnered a round of applause when she told the room that 30 percent of tech CEOs in Chicago are women, and this number is expected to grow. Tech incubators are fostering opportunities for female entrepreneurs with big ideas and major tech companies are racing to recruit these powerful future leaders. Women are leading the charge and taking the tech scene by storm in Chicago. So, who run the world? Girls (in tech).

In order to maintain our post as a city driving innovation, Chicago’s tech innovators need to adopt a strong communications program that leverages these insights. We have the tech, we have the talent — it’s time to show it off and spread the word. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our amazing city. Cheers to the next ten years!

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.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Marketers at INBOUND 2018

Just as summer is winding down, every September more than 24,000 people flood Boston for Hubspot’s annual marketing conference – INBOUND. Touting the likes of former First Lady Michelle Obama, Bloomberg’s Emily Chang, and founder of the “me too” movement Tarana Burke, Hubspot furnishes a star-studded lineup of speakers eager to share their personal experiences, successes, failures and learnings with marketing and PR professionals from all corners of the world.

I had the pleasure of attending the conference for three days earlier this month on behalf of Highwire PR. In those three days I heard from over 16 passionate, tack-sharp business executives, entrepreneurs, celebrities and other well-respected leaders from a cornucopia of industries.

Amidst all of this excitement and a sea of Insta-worthy swingy chairs (one of which I absolutely took for a spin) here are a few takeaways that I gleaned from high-powered leaders at the conference.

The Importance of Analog

As our world becomes increasingly more connected and rooted in technologies, many of the speakers at INBOUND stressed the importance of preserving non-digital experiences. For marketing and PR professionals, technology provides an unprecedented level and frequency of communication that opens doors and enhances our efforts. However, the enthusiastic adoption of technology has created a sense of social anxiety — constantly checking email, posting on Instagram, tweeting about an experience — that directly impacts our ability to “stay in the moment.”

Joanna Coles, former chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, and SoulCycle co-founder Julie Rice both offered a solution to combat this lack of human connection by finding some sense of community around us. Whether it’s at your local spin studio, book club, community chorus —  wherever — it’s critical that we carve out a niche to forge these connections sans smartphones.

Similarly, former vice chair of GE Beth Comstock and Troy Carter, Spotify global head of creator services, cautioned against replacing our human instinct with data. While measurement is key to benchmarking success in business, it’s critical that we don’t “rely on the crutch of data,” warned Troy. Our gut instinct is invaluable and uniquely human, leading us to free thinking and possibility in a way that data does not.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

In almost every single session, there was a clear throughline: effective prioritization and success go hand in hand. Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud said it best when she shared that  “the ability to ruthlessly prioritize” was vital when she joined the Vimeo team. For most of us, there will never be a shortage of work. It’s easy to get distracted and suffer from “shiny object syndrome,” bouncing from task to task without much thought. However, in doing so we often spend time on things that don’t necessarily require our attention, spurring stress and burnout. Where we can reclaim our power is realizing we can’t do it all. It’s OK to push back or save a task for another time; as Anjali stated, “If you have a day where you try to do everything, you’ll do nothing well.”

Seek Out Creativity

Creativity is the lifeblood of PR — it’s what we use to help our clients stand out and share their stories. Therefore, it’s critical that we make time for creativity. How do we do this? INBOUND speakers had plenty to share on the topic.

  • Nourish our curiosities: We musn’t shy away from hard questions, but rather follow them and see where they lead.
  • Challenge gatekeepers: Beth Comstock implored us to reevaluate what we hold to be true. She urged us to invite people in whose judgement and perspectives make for “agitated inquiry” that produces sturdy, well-fleshed-out ideas.
  • Actively carve out space for creativity: Be sure to set aside designated time to flex these creative muscles and imagine new possibilities.

It’s difficult to lift your head above the PR noise, but attending INBOUND this year helped me realize just how valuable time, balance and creativity truly are. These three elements are also integral parts of the culture and vision here at Highwire. I love working for a company that encourages its employees to continuously identify creative outlets — whether that’s attending industry events like INBOUND or in my day-to-day work.  Until next year, INBOUND, and thanks so much Highwire!

A Day in the Life of: Ben Liwanag, Account Associate

As news breaks and we work to tell our clients’ stories, my days are always different. In fact, the only constant in my work week seems to be a morning cup of coffee, Taylor Swift on repeat and a delayed L train packed full of antsy commuters.

At Highwire I’ve had the opportunity to consistently level up and take on more strategic and advanced tasks, all thanks to the help of team members willing to mentor and guide me through the process. But for those interested in my day-to-day responsibilities, fret not. Every campaign, proactive pitch and rapid response release have their similarities.

I would break my role as an intern and now account associate into three different categories: content, media relations and being the team’s media maven in the making. These three main roles allow me to help the team stay  #AlwaysWired and #AlwaysWinning. So, mom, I’ve decided to answer your questions about my job for the future Highwire Walkers and curious cats on the web.

“You read the news a lot. What’s going on in the world?”

Fortunately for my coworkers, I stay up-to-date on more than just Taylor Swift news. A core component of my job is to constantly read the news and understand what reporters are writing about and broad trends that affect our clients. I have to be the first to catch breaking news.

There are a few different things that this news monitoring results in, the main action being news scans that ranging from daily to bi-weekly and weekly. I’m responsible for compiling anything relevant to our client, whether it is a new product launch from a competitor or new industry data. These news scans are shared internally and directly with our clients, and give us a broader look at the news cycle and what actions we need to take from a media standpoint. Besides being a client deliverable, it’s an important task that gives me an extra edge in the core component of my job, media relations.

“What does pitching mean?”

Brilliant songwriting is at the heart of any Taylor Swift song, just as media relations is the heart of my day-to-day role. Broadly speaking, I’d narrow this down to three core components that I particularly work on; creating media lists, drafting pitches (story ideas) and pitching (sharing with reporters).  

The key to any successful media campaign is finding the right reporters to tell your stories, and that is where media lists come into play. Whether it be curating old lists, incorporating reporters from news scans or identifying a reporter for an exclusive, spending time on media lists is critical to the success of any media campaign.

Additionally, spending time talking to reporters and sharing our news is another integral part of my role. Reporters will always say “tell me why.” Pitch writing is how we answer that question. Because we never want to copy and paste, either a teammate or myself will then draft a pitch outline with “the meat” of the narrative in it.

This is then where I spend most of my time adding the personal touches and some ideas that will most likely pique the specific reporters’ interest. News scans are especially helpful in letting me tailor each pitch to a reporter, because they allow me to really see what reporters are interested in. While this can be challenging, it’s the biggest part of the work I do. It’s also the most rewarding, especially seeing the work I do in the media.

“What’s a byline?”

I define public relations as storytelling. Part of how we tell clients’ stories is through bylines — basically a contributed article on a specific topic. While I’m not an expert in cloud computing or debt consolidation, my clients are. As an account associate, I regularly team up with client executives to help compile their thoughts and expertise into a meaningful story.

On any given day, you can find me researching different topics to help showcase my clients’ expertise, looking at how the team can speak to a given topic to meet business goals or on the phone learning more about how they see a specific topic. From here is where the magic happens, known as byline writing. While the process can be tedious, it’s an exciting aspect of public relations that plays a big role in clients’ communications strategy.

“What’s coming up that you’re working on?”

Well, mom, this is a question I’ll have to save for another time – I can’t give away any spoilers, but what I’m working on now will be in tech news headlines soon. But for the future Highwire Walkers and PR pros, this is just a snapshot of my role at Highwire. Every day is filled with new opportunities, another media list and keeping up with the news. And for those interested in PR, I know places where you can truly be a part of something different.

Behind the Scenes with Black Hat Comms Lead

Logo of the Black Hat conference

It’s nearly time for Black Hat USA and given RSA was so late in the year, it seems to have snuck up on everyone quicker than ever.

But no fear, Highwire’s Cyber Squad is on top of it—this year, we interviewed Kimberly Samra, PR Manager for Black Hat and lead for UBM’s technology portfolio, to get a pulse on what the hottest trends at the show will be and how attendees and PR practitioners alike can make the most of their time at the conference this year.

See below for information ranging from themes that will attract a lot of attention at the show—including election security, critical infrastructure and privacy—and tips for how to break through to reporters and tell your story. We hope this information helps you make the most of your time at Black Hat. If you’re heading down and want to meet up with the Highwire Cyber Squad, please email us at

Now, back to our scheduled programming to get the inside scoop from Kimberly Samra, PR manager for Black Hat:

Q) How has PR at Black Hat changed?

The PR landscape has certainly expanded with the growth of the security industry. While we still see the usual big-time security reporters covering the event, coverage is shifting across multiple verticals as the industry transitions and becomes such an essential part of our everyday lives. As discussed in Black Hat’s new research report, “Where Cybersecurity Stands” security has quickly become mainstream, touching everything from politics to international relations, commerce, money and human relations—it really has a hand in everything these days.

So as PR folks ramp up for the event, they should tailor their outreach strategies thinking beyond items specific to security and ensure their pitches demonstrate how people and consumers are affected on a grander scale.

Q) Have you seen a shift in Black Hat audience? More CIOs and technology buyers?

As the event grows we definitely see a wider range of professionals attending. While the Briefings program is at the core of what we offer to our audience, we’ve seen our Business Hall expand to welcome top vendors in the industry interested in sharing their latest and greatest tools and how they’re pushing security innovation forward through advanced research. Our Black Hat CISO Summit has also grown as more executives are making security a top priority.

Black Hat as a whole really brings together every aspect of the industry and is a hub for all things security. It’s the must-attend security event of the year and we’re happy to continue adding to our offerings and the content media is exposed to so they can report critical insights to the public.

Q) What are the top trends you expect to see at the show this year?

Of course we always see a lot of attention around big-name vendors, mobile, IoT, payment systems, critical infrastructure, etc. However, not surprisingly, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around voting technology and privacy. As folks look toward the upcoming elections and draw from all the controversy around the 2016 U.S. presidential race, they’re looking to security experts to answer questions about how vulnerabilities found in voting technology could affect outcomes and any other potential issues that could unknowingly change the course of political history.  

Privacy on the other hand is a vast issue that remains top of mind for people on many levels—from those working in government, the enterprise level and everyday citizens. We’ve all seen headlines pertaining to the Facebook investigation, the global effects of GDPR, and continued reports of security breaches. It’s no secret that people are questioning their privacy and how their data is being used. It’s a widespread topic and the research being done within the security industry is pertinent to learning more and making moves toward protection.

Q) Is there anything new happening at the show?

Yes! We’re really excited about a number of new offerings this year, specifically the expansion of our community programs. Black Hat has taken strategic steps over the years to ensure our program expands and continues to welcome and serve a wider audience. A few years back we began work around inclusivity through dedicated diversity programs. We’re proud that these programs have continued to grow and that we’re now able tap into programming specific to the needs of the community on a much larger scale.

On the Briefings side, we’ll see content coming from the new Community Track, which was developed to provide a forum for discussion on relevant issues currently impacting the InfoSec community. These talks will dive into important topics including careers, legal issues, inclusion, diversity, attribution, substance abuse, mental health, burnout, security awareness, work-life balance and more. We’ll also be holding Community Workshops which have been made to encourage collaboration among the Black Hat community; attendees will be exposed to everything from personal digital resilience to mentorship and career-building strategies.

And of course, we’ll see the return of our scholarship program and our work with non-profit partners, two items we’re really passionate about as we engage with and encourage the next generation of security professionals and give back to the community we service.

Q) What advice can you offer for companies looking to prepare to pitch reporters at Black Hat?

Companies should keep in mind the scale of Black Hat as well as the happenings throughout the week—remember, it’s called “Hacker Summer Camp” for a reason. Do your homework and tailor what you’re trying to pitch specifically to the reporter you’re reaching out to—a pitch that’s only specific to a security product announcement won’t always do the trick.

Questions you should ask yourself: Are you familiar with the headlines out there right now? Does your content pertain to big topics like privacy, critical infrastructure or maybe companies a certain journalist regularly writes about? Think of yourself as a valuable source rather than someone trying to simply sell a reporter on a story.

Also, make it easy on them! There is so much going on leading up to the event and especially onsite, you don’t want your news to get swept up in the hustle bustle especially if press have to decipher your message and how it applies to a potential big story. Take a step back, focus on what the big takeaway is, and figure out the headline—if you were a reporter, how would you envision the story? It’s like delivering a ready-made gift.

And start now! Don’t wait to get your news out to registered media. Remember, their schedules are packed onsite so you need to get on their radars now so they can make time for you.

See here for an interview with Black Hat communications director from 2016 for a look back at trends over the years.

Learn more about Highwire’s security practice here or reach out to us at to continue the conversation. We’ll be at the conference, so we’re looking forward to meeting you on the show floor to hear your story!

Tech Storytellers Gather to Discuss the “Evolution of the Story” in NYC

Highwire has been exploring “the story” throughout 2018 as we celebrate our 10th anniversary. While headlines, platforms and trends have changed significantly over the past 10 years, the unified goal of PR and the media has remained the same: to tell a compelling story. However, the ever-changing media, political and technology landscapes all have a large impact on what that story is and how best to tell it.

To dig into this concept further, Highwire invited some of the sharpest tech storytellers to discuss how the story has evolved and what the next 10 years will bring for PR and journalism. The media panel took place on June 27 at Work-Bench and was moderated by Highwire Account Director Ken Bruno. Panelists included Kerry Flynn, Marketing Reporter at Digiday; Polina Marinova, Associate Editor at Fortune; Anthony Ha, Senior Writer at TechCrunch; and Sean Ludwig, Communications and Marketing Director at Tech:NYC.

Over the course of the panel, these storytellers shared their insights into what trends are having the biggest impact on journalism and how PR pros can work successfully with the media.

The State of Journalism

We’re seeing the disruption of traditional media, with business model changes and restructuring at many of the largest media organizations. Meanwhile, smaller online outlets are delivering high-caliber reporting that is capturing the attention of many young readers.

The move toward subscription-based content and paywalls is really having an impact, noted Marinova. What these outlets are after is more quality journalism, but she expressed doubt that people will pay for more than just The New York Times and The Washington Post. Despite these concerns, Marinova was optimistic that quality journalism will still have value for readers.

“We’re all trying to figure out how we’re going to make money in the next five years,” said Anthony Ha of TechCrunch. The industry is still finding this path, and it will be a bumpy one, but Ha said there are still great opportunities for high-quality work. “Clickbait still exists, but most publications who want to be respected are interested in more than just chasing traffic.”

The Changing Reader/Reporter Relationship

In the era of social media, fake news and citizen journalism, the relationship between a reporter and their readers is increasingly complex.

“Social media has knocked all of those barriers down — and maybe that’s okay,” said Ludwig. Instead of receiving an angry email a few days after you publish a story, now journalists are called out instantly on social media when they make a mistake. This has created a very public and instant accountability for the media.

“Journalists have become more accessible than ever, which means that sometimes we are going to put our foot in our mouth,” said Flynn. She has been especially interested in seeing how major news personalities are responding to criticism online in real-time.

The Impact of Diminishing Trust in Social Media

Some industry pundits believe that social media is at an all-time low, which is impacting both the tech and publishing world in tandem. The publishing market will have to navigate the lasting impacts of social media backlash and we may see media organizations adjusting their publishing strategies.

“I hope publishers have learned their lesson about relying too much on social media for content distribution,” said Flynn. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I have faith that the younger generation gets it and will do their research when getting news from social media sites.”

Ludwig said that educators have a responsibility to teach the younger generation how to use social media in a healthy way and how to separate real news vs fake news online.

Tips for PR Pros

Panelists agreed that while new mediums continue to change how journalists and PR professionals communicate, the most important thing will remain the same: it’s up to PR pros to know what is the right fit for a publication and its audience. Do your research and know exactly what a reporter covers before pitching them.

“Journalists are humans, and every one of us is different,” said Flynn. Don’t be afraid to stalk reporters online to get to know their coverage and what will be most valuable to them.

“Keep your emails short and to the point,” said Marinova. “A quick ‘hey do you cover this’ is fine, and then we can have a longer conversation if it’s a good fit.”

Stay Tuned for More 10th Anniversary Updates

Keep an eye out on the blog as we continue to delve into what the next 10 years may hold for tech sectors like security, enterprise and AI. We’ll be publishing a series of blogs from Highwire’s subject matter experts as we continue to celebrate our 10th year.

Real Interns of Highwire PR – Top Tips On All Things PR

Highwire’s Internship Program helps college graduates build the foundation for a long-term career in PR. This internship provides opportunities to work directly with client teams and to gain relevant hands-on experience. Across our four offices, our interns help create content to help tell our client’s stories and develop a strong foundation of skills for a career in PR. Learn about a few of our current Highwire interns below!

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Highwire’s Media Panel – The Evolution of “The Story”

This year, Highwire is celebrating 10 years as an agency. Tapping into our inquisitive nature as communications professionals, we took this opportunity to invite esteemed journalists and PR peers through our doors to discuss the evolution of “The Story.” The tech and media world has changed tremendously, from the rise of the gig economy to the decline of print, but one thing has remained the same — a good story is a good story. While publication and readership may change what the core of that story contains, one goal remains: create and amplify a powerful narrative.

We sat down with Associated Press’ Michael Liedtke, Fast Company’s Harry McCracken, Reuters’ Stephen Nellis, and The Information’s Sarah Kuranda to hear what intrigues them about the technology industry today, and to get their thoughts on the evolving PR/media relationship.

Trends of Interest:

  • Technology’s Influence on Society and Culture

This seemed to be the hottest topic on the minds of these journalists. Michael Liedtke noted how they are “creepily interested in the surveillance society that we seem to be complacently creating for ourselves whether we know it or not.” As our world advances, journalists will be watching to see how society adapts to its dependence on an imperfect system.

  • AI and the Future of Work

Liedtke also noted his interest in the future of work as it relates to AI. While AI is enhancing life in so many ways, creating efficiencies and increasing productivity, it’s also establishing tensions among workers. For those of us living in a Silicon-Valley bubble, it’s also critical to share illustrative examples with the general public so they can grasp the true impacts of AI from real-life accounts.

  • Beyond the Valley

Reaching beyond Silicon Valley was another point made by Stephen Nellis. He discussed his desire to tap into Reuters’ global network and work with international correspondents to develop a worldwide view for his pieces.

Cultivating Relationships to Separate the Experts from the Phonies

Sources are the glue that holds PR professionals and journalists together. PR professionals serve an important role as gatekeepers to the experts and thought leaders that journalists engage with for compelling stories. It’s essential that we treat that responsibility with care. As Sarah Kuranda emphasized, journalists have to weed through an abundance of “experts,” and therefore establishing relationships with genuine sources is a gift. A great source has first-hand experience, and fun stories to tell. If you have a great source, encourage them to build those relationships with media. Offer journalists a coffee or drink meeting and you’ll stay off the “B.S. list.”

The Under-Appreciated Element

Harry McCracken urged PR professionals to recognize the previous context in our pitches. It may seem like technology companies are entering a brand new world, but if you do your research, you’ll find essential historical context that is invaluable for stories. Silicon Valley is evolving rapidly, but nearly everything that is “new” has been tried before. Showing that your company or client has learned from others is a testament to the company’s product and end goal.

Working Together As Storytellers

The relationship between journalists and PR professionals is a delicate one. Each one represents a different side of the same narrative, but both seek to peak the interest of the audience. While we are always walking that thin line, discussions like these bring us a little bit closer to our ultimate goal – telling the story.

5 Tips to Help You Nail Your Interview

So you’ve landed the big interview. Your team has secured one-on-one time with a journalist, and you have the chance to get your company’s message out to the masses. This is a big opportunity with plenty at stake. A great interview can build authenticity and help to develop strong media relationships. But an interview flop can tarnish your reputation and cause unwanted negative attention. No one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons.

Lucky for you, our agency’s media training experts have been on the other side of the interview. As former broadcast, print and radio journalists, they have a behind-the-scenes view of what it really takes to nail an interview. Here’s a hint: It all hinges on preparation. Here are five tips that can make the difference between a stellar interview and one that leaves you scrambling to do damage control.

Imagine Your Headline…then Say It

When preparing for an interview, start by asking yourself what ideal headlines you’d like to see come out of the interview. They should say something exciting about your company while also answering questions like  “why now?” and “who cares?” Then, during the interview, begin your answers with that headline messaging. From there, support your headlines with facts, evidence and anecdotes. This will help you build out a solid foundation of key messaging for the interview.

Know Thy Interviewer

Not all journalists work the same way. It’s important to analyze the interview style of whomever you’re working with. Some journalists take a “good cop” approach. They establish a rapport with their subject by starting out with open-ended questions or asking tough questions in a friendly way to create an atmosphere of closeness. Other “bad cop” reporters take a hard-hitting approach. They skip the small talk and go straight for the tough questions, often in rapid fire. Do your research to figure out where a journalists falls on the good cop/bad cop spectrum so you know what to expect.

Anticipate the Tough Questions

Always expect the questions that you’d rather not be asked, even if you think you’re dealing with a “good cop” interviewer. Hash out what the controversial topics and hot-button issues are ahead of time. Mock interviews can be helpful here in order to prepare for the worst. If you are asked a tough question during an interview, there are a few strategies you can use to handle it. Answer the question if you can, but avoid repeating a negative statement. If the question itself isn’t negative, you can rephrase it as part of your answer and then answer the question with that angle. When in doubt, create a bridge to a key message with a phrase like “That’s a good point, but what we think is important here is…”

Avoid Trash Talk

One hard and fast rule of a good interview is that no one comes out on top by trash-talking their competitors. When it comes to rival companies, it’s best to stay mute. While it’s important to be aware of your competitors, avoid mentioning their names at all during an interview. All you’re doing is giving them free air time. Instead, name your company, your products and your customers as much as possible.

Never Go Off the Record

At some point during an interview, a journalist may turn to you and say, “Can I ask you a question off the record?” Don’t do it! Regardless of the great relationship you have with them or how much you trust them, the answer should always be no. At the end of the day, if a journalist gets a juicy soundbite or a hot tip from something you said off the record, they have quite a big incentive to go ahead and publish it. Play it safe and never say anything to a journalist that you wouldn’t want published.