Look Alive People, Look Alive

On the show floor of Internet Retailer Conference 2016

It’s that time of year again when all the brightest minds in e-commerce and retail come together for the annual Internet Retailer Conference in Chicago. We’ve seen the show grow tremendously over the years and, as expected, this year was even bigger and better than the last.

We spent a day walking the show floor of the exhibitor hall to get a pulse on the latest trends in e-commerce and the activity happening behind the scenes. In the process, we noticed a few trends that we thought would be helpful to share for exhibitors on trade show dos and don’ts. Here are a few takeaways that topped our list of observations:

Do:

  • Spend money on booth design and décor: You are spending significant resources, including money, talent and time, to exhibit at a conference so make sure to milk it for all it’s worth. At IRCE, there were dozens of booths with lackluster signage, minimal staff and dreary backdrops and color schemes. It’s surprising considering that something as simple as using bright colors can catch one’s attention and compel a stop by, not just a walk by. Be serious about exhibiting. If you are investing tens of thousands of dollars going to a tradeshow, have an inventive and effective booth so the right people can find you.
  • Free food and drinks will never be passé: Who can say no to free food and drinks, especially after being on your feet for hours on end? One company this year offered Bloody Mary’s and they were the hit of the show. In fact, we found ourselves on a goose chase in search of the satiating cocktail. It might be the oldest trick in the book but this type of incentive is always sure to lure prospects to your booth. Another company, Meridian, offered truffles in a mock Tiffany’s blue box as a thank you for stopping by.

Truffles in a mock Tiffany’s blue box

  • Invest in trade show messaging and training: As communication professionals, we were surprised at how many sales people could not simply articulate what their company did or how it’s unique from competitors. Remember, that if you use industry jargon, your prospects may be quick to look for an emergency exit. Prospects want to know in a simple way how they can benefit from your product or service. Make sure you make the most of your tradeshow experience and go the extra mile to properly train your spokespeople so they can seal the deal.

Don’t:

  • No Catnaps Allowed: We get it. Tradeshows are exhausting, but boy did we pass a lot of tired looking folks. Just like having a beautiful booth attracts prospects, so does a big smile on your sales reps’ faces. You might not get concerned when you don’t see a prospect that’s a high- value target, but you never know when someone is scouting your company from afar.
  • Don’t push marketing flyers: Marketing flyers are out, or they should be.  Several times, sales reps referred us to their brochures when we asked a question they couldn’t answer. But prospects are there to learn face-to-face what makes your company stand out. If they wanted to look at your marketing sell sheet, they could do so just as easily from the comfort of their office. Ditch the marketing flyers and sell sheets altogether—focus on making a personal connection.
  • If your messaging doesn’t stand out, you need something more. While on the hunt for stand out companies, we started to notice that everyone’s messaging was one and the same. Do something more to stand out from the pack whether it be a unique booth display or a marketing gimmick. Selfies or Magicians anyone?

What other trade show do’s and don’ts come to mind from your experiences? Share your story!

Nikki Plati and Carolyn Adams pose for photobooth pictures

Nikki Plati and Carolyn Adams pose at the Pitney Bowes photobooth

Special thanks to Carolyn Adams for contributing to this piece

How to Create Buzz Around a User Conference Show

Prepping for a Big Event

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User conferences are a great way for technology companies to engage with their customers, partners and the broader IT ecosystem, as it provides a forum for exchanging ideas, sharing best practices and having fun together. They are also great venues for engaging with analysts, bloggers and journalists following a market. But all the activity means nothing without inciting the right kind of interest and maximizing its impact.

This spring we experienced this first hand as we worked with Confluent on the inaugural Kafka Summit and with Twilio on the fifth annual SIGNAL conference. Below are some of our key lessons learned and best practices around creating buzz before, during and after an event.

Before the Big Day

Planning and prepping for user conferences like Kafka Summit and SIGNAL should always begin with strategic thinking and an end goal in mind. Our approach typically begins by thinking about what we can do to track back to the business goals of our clients. For example, are we trying to help drive enterprise sales or downloads, strengthen and cultivate partnership relationships or raise awareness to help recruit top talent? Having a clear understanding of the team’s goals means that we can map out specific ways to support those desired outcomes.  

The Elements

In helping reach those goals, the following elements are crucial to the game plan:

1. Engagement: A conference brings together a unique community and it’s important that you communicate with all audiences. Here are a few ideas:

  • Capture Presentations, Insights and Interviews on Camera: Live streaming keynote presentations and other talks is a great way to broaden the reach for both your event and the experts on stage. If you can’t execute on that, at least capturing all the presentations on camera provides shareable content to use after the event. Further, we recommend hiring a separate video team (or two) in order to also record show floor interviews with customers, partners and other experts onsite. It’s an economical way to secure a large volume of interviews and also provides an interesting backdrop for B-roll footage you will need down the line. Don’t forget to bring video release waivers to get signed on the spot to help expedite approval for posting videos online.
  • Create an Event App: Offering participants an app to help them navigate your event and provide real-time feedback will keep them engaged. Solicit input on speakers, sessions, the food, the venue, registration process, and associated events like a hackathon or after party. Best of all you will receive immediate input on what resonated with your community and areas to improve on next time. The app also makes it simple to recap the event and share insights each day or at the close of the event.
  • Host a Party: Bringing everyone together after a day of sessions offers participants the opportunity to network in a casual environment. At Twilio’s SIGNAL, the two-day conference ended with a carnival-style bash where attendees could partake in coding challenges
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    Twilio SIGNAL $Bash attendees playing robot Jenga.

    turned into games. Winners collected points that could be turned in for a variety of prizes. Additionally, participants were playing for the opportunity to join an elite group of Twilio developers that would get the first opportunity at hacking the technology behind Magic Leap.

 

 

 

2. Social Media: Social media is one of the best ways to keep the buzz going during the event. Having dedicated staff scheduled to attend specific sessions and to live tweet during the presentations is a great wTweetay to share key insights with your broader community. To do so effectively, define a strategy for what you want to achieve through social media and establish rules of engagement to help orchestrate a nice conversation flow. Also assign other team members to retweet, respond to questions and engage in the conversation. This approach worked well during Kafka Summit and the show became a sustained trending topic on Twitter —impressive for an inaugural event!

3. Press and Analysts: Last but certainly not least, is the important role journalists play in making a conference a success. A conference is an opportunity to highlight the excitement around your company, from new partners to new products, and journalists play a crucial role in amplifying these messages. With press, the key is to start by building relationships months in advance to build familiarity. Once you get closer to the date, inviting press to attend the event, asking them to moderate sessions and sharing the news under embargo will help to drive awareness and give you the opportunity to highlight specific information. Another important element is to make sure your press collateral is in order—do you have spokespeople ready for impromptu conversations, have you connected with partners and customers about their interest in connecting with press and do you have images and stats ready to be shared? Finally, don’t forget about the visual stories and feel good stories you can tell both during and after. At Twilio SIGNAL, the children of employees using code to sell Lemonade was a huge attraction.

In all, by following our recommendations (and working with an awesome PR firm) you’ll be set up for success. To learn more about the success that comes through careful planning, you can read this InformationWeek article by Jessica Davis highlighting Kafka Summit’s success.

Share your story. What have you seen that’s worked well?

*This blog was written with help from Andrea Torres, senior account executive in Highwire’s San Francisco office.

You’re Never Too Old for a Guiding Hand—The Importance of Mentors In the Workplace

The real world—the scariest thing you can say to graduating seniors. Last week I had the opportunity to attend Syracuse University’s career fair for its Newhouse School of Public Communications—one of the most prestigious PR programs in the U.S., and alma mater for several Highwire pros. The suits and blouses mixed in with last night’s bar stamps made me remember how uncomfortable the transition between academia and “the real world” can be.

One of the things that has become increasingly important for new employees is working in an environment that values workplace diversity. But, despite being something all organizations strive for, the numbers proving the ineffectiveness of “trying” continue to drive headlines. From the larger tech community to venture capital, it will remain a pain point until the right programs are created and the shift happens from the top down.

Kim Hunter, President and CEO of Lagrant Communications, spoke about diversity in the workplace at the Newhouse Recruitment Dinner. One of his key points presented when discussing retention efforts once programs are put in place to make diversity in the workplace a priority was the importance of mentors.

Attending Syracuse faculty, PR professionals and more discussed the fact that coming into a workplace where others look different than you can be especially intimidating for entry-level employees. But by providing a mentor from the start, we can help diminish that intimidation and create a sense of community from the very start. Not only should employers provide a mentor or manager, they should encourage employees to seek out other mentors as they continue to grow at the company.

At Highwire, I’ve had the privilege of having great mentors guide me throughout my career. But seeking out internship programs that had a mentorship program in place wasn’t on my top list of must-have’s when job hunting as a senior in college. That was a mistake. Luckily for me, I landed at a place where mentorship and professional development are a priority for the firm.

For graduating students everywhere, I encourage you to find an organization that values mentorship. It will not only help you through your first grueling eight-hour workday, but that person might be someone you look to for the rest of your career.

And one last piece of advice—tell the local bar bouncer to stamp your wrist not hand so you can hide last night from potential employers. Welcome to the real world.

To learn more about Highwire’s internship program and review available positions, please see below.

Highwire’s Internship Program stands out in our industry. With dedicated managers and mentors supporting your growth and an immediate contributing role on real client teams, Highwire interns get the coaching and experience that builds confidence and hones PR skills. We are looking for recent graduates that are passionate about pursing a career in PR and will take the initiative to make the most of this opportunity.

Responsibilities include:

  • Attending client meetings and the art of the action item
  • Compiling media coverage into client facing clip reports
  • Researching reporters, blogs and social media sites
  • Trend research
  • Drafting pitches and press materials
  • Conducting customer interviews
  • Writing press releases and blog posts
  • Social media
  • Advanced measurement and reporting

Internship Requirements:

  • College graduate
  • An enthusiastic self-starter with a ‘can do’ attitude
  • An eye for detail and an ability to multi-task
  • Strong writing and editing skills
  • Ability to navigate and master social media and social networking sites
  • Genuine interest in technology and technology companies
  • A background and/or experience in PR, journalism, English, political campaigns, technology and/or marketing is preferred

Please find our available internship positions here.

No News? No Problem

Tips for Driving for Driving Press Coverage On and Off the News Cycle

Just because you don’t have hard news doesn’t mean you can’t be active in the news cycle. By creating your own news team and developing a unique and compelling point of view, you can generate a steady cadence of news and relevant commentary between major events like funding, product launches or new hires.

Write the article you want to read. Contributed articles are a great way to gain executive visibility and brand awareness—plugging you directly into top tier publications. Not only does it build a reputation for your executives it also allows the company to strengthen its brand voice with a strong stance or opinions on topical industry happenings. To gain even great visibility, be sure to amplify and distribute these contributed pieces via your social channels.

For best results, ensure your approach is tailored. Identify three top trends that matter for your business and develop a unique and compelling point of view on each subject. This is helpful beyond editorials because social media and positive media relationships can be leveraged to insert your company’s voice into bigger industry news. More importantly, in addition to a unique perspective, timeliness is key, so create an editorial calendar with expected news cycles you can tap into.

Lastly, you have to make the information and insights from your organization work harder. If you have recurring data releases or research, turn that into a quarterly campaign that hits home with broader market trends. If there’s a unique, creative element to your company, use it as a way to gain attention and build relationships with revered journalist. Media relationships can go a long way when the news front is quiet. For examples of this approach in action, check out our recent SlideShare:

No news, now what? from Highwire PR

In all, the takeaway is simple. Don’t depend on expected news, create your own. Be in the driver’s seat of your company’s story.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can make news with no news, reach out to us at hi@highwirepr.com or follow us at @highwirepr.

Investing in Our Future: Corporate Social Responsibility

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Investing in Your Brand — What You Need to Know

What draws you to a brand? Is it their logo, their name or their values?

For most, it’s brand awareness fueled by a personal connection to the brand and company. Apple, Lego and the Walt Disney Company are examples of companies who exemplify this personal connection. What each also has in common is a sense of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at their core.  A CSR program touches everything from products to business decisions, serving as the glue, solidifying customer loyalty.  If you are thinking about launching your own CSR campaign or trying to reinvigorate the connection your business has with its customers, here are the reasons why 64 percent of CEOs are increasing their investments in corporate social responsibility this year.

Community Impact and Engagement: A CSR program can mean many things–supporting causes, exerting positive societal influence, and displaying environmental responsibility to name a few.  Salesforce and Highwire client InsideSales.com for example have a 1-1-1 model, where each company dedicates one percent of their product, revenue and employees’ time to impact lives for good. Whether by volunteering with local nonprofits (think about the causes that matter to your employees) or funding programs such as education and technology innovation, these investments make a large impact on both the local community and employees, fueling brand perceptions and recruiting efforts. InsideSales.com and its Do Good Foundation was recently recognized by the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce for not only succeeding in its industry but also making an impact in the local community, giving back to its roots and having a positive effect in the region.

Build Trust – Invest in Your Company’s Future: CSR builds trust with employees and customers. It also creates more engaged employees and employees that are 38 percent more loyal.  When thinking about how to inspire your employees and build trust think about the initiatives that you can take on that map back to who you are as a business. How does your founding story inspire who you want to become and how you want to be perceived? Answering these questions will help your business build trust organically and authentically.

One great example is Highwire client Twilio. From the beginning, Twilio’s origins centered around nine core values that touched every part of the business from building products to running the business. As a company built by developers, Twilio likes to celebrates the doers – those people and companies within their community that are using technology in awesome ways. So in 2013, Twilio launched its nonprofit arm Twilio.org to give nonprofits access to the same technologies Fortune 500s are using. The result is a growing number of nonprofits that use Twilio’s cloud communications to solve some of the world’s problems. Examples include the Polaris Project rescuing victims of human trafficking, Doctors Without Borders building better care programs for tuberculosis patients and even reducing disaster response times by 50 percent for the American Red Cross. For Twilio, staying true to its roots and its core value helped it to launch an initiative that will not only help grow its business but also create a company that employees can feel proud to work for.

Value Enhancing: Consumers are demanding more from brands, increasingly rewarding companies whose services and products are both good for them and good for society. This demand also occurs in the workplace as prospective employees look for companies whose core values match their own. A CSR program helps with this outward perception, improving how outside third parties think about a brand. If you need more convincing, a recent Harvard Business School study found that investments in sustainability issues are “shareholder-value increasing” – meaning communicating your CSR program will impact your bottom line.

Have you successfully launched a CSR program? What’s your story?

Content is King: PR and Marketing’s New Focus

Content Becomes Lynchpin in PR and Marketing Programs for 2016

Those of us in content have been touting this claim for years, but it’s nice to come across data that validates content as king. A recent Marketwired survey of PR, IR and marketing professionals found the that content marketing is rapidly growing in importance.

Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents currently have a content marketing program in place, and a majority plan to increase (64 percent) or maintain (22 percent) those efforts throughout the year.

 

Other highlights include:

  • *  Blog posts (55 percent), images (29 percent) and news (24 percent) were identified as the most used forms of content.
  • *  Influencers and brand advocates are being used by 61 percent of respondents to amplify their content to reach new audiences and increase overall engagement.
  • *  At least half of respondents use visuals on a weekly basis, and an impressive 30 percent do so daily.
  • *  Visual content is most often shared on Twitter (75 percent), Facebook (73 percent) and LinkedIn (63 percent) with Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest being popular alternatives.
  • *  Most respondents do still believe that earned media efforts is a top priority, but owned media—like blogs, tip sheets, case studies, infographics, etc.—are a close second.
  • *  In all of this, seeing the returns on investment are important. As such 77 percent of respondents measure their content efforts—”what’s worth doing, is worth measuring.”

 

Ultimately, the survey validated the importance of content for PR and marketing campaigns, and key role in supporting overall business objectives. Quality content is rising to the top as more and more consumers seek out educational collateral that doesn’t sell them but helps them in their decision making process.

Are you telling personal brand stories, boosting customer advocacy and generating leads for your sales team with high-caliber content that attracts customers and keeps them coming back? If not, stop lagging and catch up because it’s ringing loud and clear: “Content is king!”

For deeper dive on the topic and survey, check out Marketwired’s infographic, “Will You Be A #ContentMachine in 2016?”

Waiting for the IPO Window to Open? What to do While You Wait.

Now is a good time for tech companies to build out their comms programs in advance of an offering

2015 saw a slow down in IPOs, with IPO guru Renaissance Capital reporting that the number of companies completing an IPO in 2015 dropped 40 percent from 2014. The tech sector in particular took a big hit.

Despite the weakness, there were some tech IPOs in 2015, including Atlassian, FitBit and security SaaS company Mimecast (NASDAQ: MIME). Highwire was privileged to provide IPO communications support for Mimecast’s November 2015 offering, including managing global media relations, developing messaging and positioning as well as helping media train the company’s CEO in preparation for the day.

Mimecast IPO

 

Will 2016 see a resurgence of tech IPOs? At this point, it’s hard to tell. Many experts are saying “Don’t Hold Your Breath for a 2016 Tech IPO Boom”. For some startups, that could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Why would a slowdown in IPOs be a good thing for tech companies? Because IPO preparation should start far in advance of a possible filing, and that’s too often not the case. In fact, once a company is actively involved in the IPO process, it’s probably too late to launch a heavy media relations campaign due to the quiet period restrictions.

So if you are one of those tech companies waiting in the wings for the IPO window to open again, what can you do to prepare?

Get out there and tell your story.

Develop a clear and compelling way to communicate and then develop strong relationships with your beat reporters at the major media. As in all relationships, it should be a two-way street where you serve as a resource for the media when they need you. As a result, when listing day finally does come, they’ll be much more likely to cover you and much more educated on your value proposition. This is even more important for those B2B tech companies that don’t have the high levels of awareness that consumer companies command.

No one knows when the IPO window will open again, but in the meantime, there’s plenty tech companies can do with their comms programs to prepare.

What do you think 2016 will bring for the tech IPO market? Share your thoughts below.

 

Simple Tips for Tweet Chat Triumph

SONY DSCSocial media has become a powerful component of PR and communication campaigns for brands big and small.

Twitter, in particular, offers a huge opportunity to gain visibility—companies can share their news, voice their professional opinions and even participate in or host specialized discussions, known as tweet chats or Twitter chats. By simply participating in these chats, brands can gain both social exposure and followers.

As a PR professional, I encourage you to take it one step further by hosting a tweet chat of your own. In doing so, brands can further strengthen their voice within their niche communities and directly engage with other thought leaders in their fields. These chats can be recurring (monthly, quarterly, etc.) or spontaneously tied to client news or events.

Ready to get started? I’ve outlined a few key steps to ensure a successful tweet chat.

Pre-chat prep to ensure a lively conversation

Most of the work that goes into hosting a tweet chat happens before the event actually occurs.

First and foremost, you should pick a chat topic for which your internal thought leader can serve as an expert. Anything too broad could result in too long of a chat session, so a specific angle or subtopic works well. For example, an email marketing company might want to host a chat on the basics of A/B split testing.  

Next, decide if your brand wants to partner with an outside expert or influencer in the field. This tactic will bring higher visibility to the chat and also add an extra layer of legitimacy to the session. Not sure who the right person is for your topic? You can use Twitter itself to find viable influencers and approach them about co-hosting a chat.

Once you have an expert co-host on board (or if you choose to proceed without one), you can get started on the basics. When scheduling the chat, aim for 30-60 minutes. Make sure your date is at least a month out so you have ample time to promote it. Additionally, create a unique hashtag for promotion and participation purposes. The hashtag is how your participants engage with you throughout the chat, so take the time to ensure you come up with something short and memorable.

When these tasks are out of the way, focus on the structure and content of the chat. In addition to the outside expert, determine who on the brand’s side will participate and what role they will have during the chat. One suggestion is to have two people on the brand’s side involved—one operating the brand’s handle, running the chat and posing the questions, and another (the one you are leveraging as the thought leader) on their personal handle, responding to the questions.

For content, draft the questions the moderator will be asking and responses the thought leader will be offering ahead of time (keeping in mind the 140-character rule, including the hashtag). Tweet chats can move quickly, and this trick will help participants stay up to speed. For a one-hour chat, draft around 8-10 questions. If time allows, it’s a best practice to create images that include each question. This makes the chat’s questions prominent in participants’ twitter feed, ensuring questions don’t get lost in the conversation.

Lastly, promote promote promote. Take to Twitter to communicate save-the-date messages. Create a simple image with the basic chat details and hashtag to catch followers’ eyes. Write a promotional blog and post it on your website. Send e-invites to friendly media folks so they can either participate or monitor the chat in real time. Identify individuals who are active in similarly themed chats and directly tweet at them inviting them to your chat.

Managing mid-chat

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, the chat can practically run itself. That said, one piece of advice is to have all participants dial into a conference number a few minutes before the chat is set to begin. This will allow for quick intros of the influencer to the brand participants, and the ability to address any last minute questions. Have everyone stay dialed in with their phones on mute for the duration of the chat; if the need for direct communication between you, the client or the partner expert comes up, you’ll have a means of instant access.

At the top of the chat, the moderator should thank attendees for coming; directly tweet them if you have time, but don’t wait too long to get the ball rolling. Have the moderator pose the first question and allow for the “experts” to weigh in with their pre-scripted responses. Give ample time for chat attendees to ask or respond to questions, and be sure that the moderator favorites and retweets some of the responses in real time. Allow for about 5-7 minutes between each question before asking the next.

Encourage your chat hosts to not just stick to the script but to also offer off-the-cuff responses to some of the questions—they should feed off of the conversation as it flows in order to not sound too groomed.

Post-chat repurposing

Lastly, the value of a tweet chat is not limited to only the 30 or 60 minutes in which it occurs. You can extend its shelf life by using the material to create further content, such as blog posts, infographics or SlideShares highlighting the top takeaways from the chat.

For instance, Highwire client Corvisa recently teamed up with customer service expert Shep Hyken to host a twitter chat, “Today’s Customers: What Do They Really Want?” Afterward, Corvisa repurposed the content of the chat for a recap blog.

If you are ready to engage with your brand’s audience and fellow thought leaders like Corvisa did, get the creative process started by checking out some upcoming chats to see what’s trending in your industry’s social spaces. Whether it’s a first and only or the first of many, tweet chats are a must-try for any brand.

Survey & Infographic from Black Hat 2015 – Hot Security Topics, Overused Buzzwords and more

The second biggest security conference of the year – Black Hat 2015 – may be critiqued as being more and more corporate (comparing it to its professional counterpart RSA), but the research and hacks remain just as impressive as ever. From cyber espionage, to IoT, to car hacking – a landmark moment forever changing the public’s perception of security – this year’s show was anything but dull. Highwire Security was on the ground surveying attendees and here’s what we found:

Top Trends in Security

In line with conversations with reporters, clients and security experts, the survey found that IoT (40 percent) remains the hottest trend in security this year. And the research at the show holds true – hacking rifles, satellites and even a skateboard. Tied for a close second was application security (30 percent) and board-level security awareness (30 percent) – regardless of the intense frequency of hacks and breaches, there is still a major disconnect between the developer and the board.

While IoT dominated conversation this year, we’re expecting to see a few new topics on the list at Black Hat 2016. For example, the intersection of healthcare and security was a hotly discussed item at this year’s show, with the FDA recently making one of their first comments ever on cybersecurity. Long considered to be a laggard when it comes to security, the healthcare industry is finally starting to acknowledge there is work to be done.

In addition to healthcare, we expect to see cyber legislation shoot up the charts next year. For months, the security research community has been very outspoken about the controversial Wassenaar Arrangement, and with a few other security-focused bills on the floor of congress, the trend is only expected to go up.

What are Security Pros Scared of?

People! Twenty eight percent are most concerned about careless employees and user error – insider threats remain a top cause of many high-profile breaches (ahem, Target). Closely followed by 25 percent concerned about cyber espionage (Sony) and 23 percent concerned about mobile malware (Stagefright). Interestingly enough, only 6 percent are concerned about PoS attacks, when in reality 40 percent of data breaches were PoS breaches according to Trustwave’s 2015 Global Security Report.

OPM OMG

The recent hack on the Office of Personnel Management has dominated headlines for months, with the number of leaked records increasing in almost every update to the story. So many whispers at Black Hat speculated what would happen next: “Who has this data?” “Somebody’s just sitting on it- are government profiles being built?” “What’s the next targeted agency?” 

The ongoing saga of nation state attacks have struck a nerve with the security community- and everybody has an opinion. Many politicians have recently called for increased collaboration between the private and public sectors to thwart these breaches, with 73 percent of Black Hat attendees claiming they agree that the entities should increase information sharing between one another.

Excuse My French

So what’s the worst of the worst in security? Cut these words from your vocabulary and save yourself a few eye rolls. The top buzzwords security pros are sick of hearing are next generation (64 percent), advanced persistent threats (54 percent), thought leader (52 percent) and game changer (52 percent). Oh and while you’re at it, let’s get rid of disruptive (40 percent), hacktivism (40 percent) and BYOD (36 percent) too.

See our full results below, and we’ll see you at Black Hat 2016!

BlackHat Infographic-Revised2

Written by Christine McKeown, Bill Bode, Nicole Plati and Megan Grasty, members of Highwire PR’s security practice

Beyond Email: 9 Tips for Pitching on Twitter, the Phone and at Events

These days, most pitching, the backbone of public relations, starts with an email. You spend hours fine-tuning a pitch with your team, before sending it off to a reporter with your fingers crossed. Often it’s a hit, but sometimes it falls flat.

No responses to your initial email doesn’t necessarily mean that you made a bad pitch or that your announcement isn’t newsworthy. Whether you get a response or not often depends on factors that are out of your hands: a crowded inbox, a misread subject line, poor timing, etc.

Clearly, you can’t solely rely on email, because it isn’t a perfect communication tool. You have to reach the reporters where they are (always keeping in mind that some reporters prefer email-only interaction).

Below, are some strategies from Highwire Walkers on how they like to get in front of reporters, and what to do when you get ahold of them:

Phone Pitching — Andrea Torres, SAE

Public relations and sales have one thing in common – phone calls. Just like salespeople, PR people need to be friendly and get to the point quickly to do our jobs well. When pitching reporters, keep the following in mind:

Do your research: Have you taken the time to dig into your contacts? Have you read or at least skimmed recent stories? If not, stop what you are doing – you are not ready to pick up the phone. Before dialing, spend the time to know whom you are calling and what they are writing about. This step will make sure you make a good first impression and that you are prepared should you have to think of news angles on the fly.

Have a plan: Researching your targets beforehand is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you haven’t gotten your thoughts and key conversation points organized. This might mean creating an outline to guide you or writing out an entire script. The takeaway is here is to set yourself up for success so to that you can get your point across.

Get to the point: If you want to lock in that briefing, don’t waste a journalist’s time; make your point quickly and concisely. This step is easier if you’ve followed step 1 and 2.

Be Nice: PR is all about relationships, so be nice. When talking to journalists on the phone, ask about their day and smile. It might seem odd, but smiling helps you relax and sound more pleasant.

Twitter Pitching — Ben Noble, AE

Twitter is a high-risk/high-reward platform that can help quickly catch a journalist outside their busy inbox. Journalists who frequently use Twitter are likely to engage in conversation and/or acknowledge posts from their followers. I recommend grabbing the journalist’s attention online with an eye-catching message and then shifting the conversation to email.

Don’t jump headfirst into a pitch: Nobody wants unsolicited pitches clogging up their timeline. Instead, offer insight into an article or post presented on the journalist’s feed. Share your perspective, ask them for their thoughts and offer counterpoints to topics of discussion. Building Twitter relationships starts with a courting process. Once you have a proper cadence of back and forth, indicate that you may have someone who can further address the topic (your client) and offer to send an email.

Avoid pitching several reporters at once. Twitter is an open forum and your tweets are public. Spamming journalists will be noticed and frowned upon.

Follow up – but not the same way as you would through email. If a journalist doesn’t reply to your first attempt at conversation, don’t be dissuaded. Feel free to follow up by prompting another discussion. Don’t remind the journalist of your initial post. Instead, start a new conversation to show that you are legitimately interested in the journalist’s perspective. Again, Twitter relationships involve courting. Prove that you are a committed follower rather than a one-off attention seeker.

Pitching In-Person — Lauren Kido, SAE

For PR pros, seeing reporters in-person is like a celebrity sighting: you usually know so much about them, have the perfect conversation scripted out in your head and are a little hesitant to approach them at first. But, whether the sighting happens at a networking event, conference, tradeshow or at your local coffee shop, here are a few things to keep in mind when pitching reporters in-person:

Make it a conversation: Meeting in-person is an excellent way to build relationships for your client, but it shouldn’t all be business. Strike up a conversation about non-work related topics, and if you’re following a reporter on social media, now’s your chance to ask about the new puppy or how relaxing that beach vacation was (just be sure first to note that you saw their tweet).

Ask questions: You’ve emailed, called and tweeted and now you’re chatting face-to-face! Use this valuable time to get a better sense of what the reporter is working on by asking what they’re interested in covering, tired of hearing about and what thoughts they have on industry trends. It’s also helpful to understand how they might like to be pitched in the future so you can pass this information along to the rest of your team.

Have business cards handy: Business cards should always be kept on hand at any networking event. Make sure to write your client names and websites on your business cards so reporters can easily jog their memory when they are sorting through cards at the end of a long night.

Pitching on Twitter, in-person, on the phone — it can all be daunting. But, with some practice, you get the hang of it, and the coverage will start coming in.

Happy pitching!

 

Written by Ben Levine, an Account Associate in San Francisco, with help from Lauren Kido, Ben Noble and Andrea Torres