Taking A Moment to Count Our Blessings

Highwire has mandated work from home across our four offices since March 9, 2020. We’re well over a month into social distancing and our office environments have changed dramatically. In this current climate, it’s sometimes impossible to see anything with a “glass half full” point of view. But we posed the question across offices, “what are you most grateful for?” We were happy to see that despite the bleak circumstances, our Highwire Walkers were finding the positives within their new normal.

“Grateful for the peace and serenity of Sonoma and the new sheep and herding dog that moved next door. They are completely unaffected by the coronavirus and remind me that life will move on and this too shall pass. And for the family and friends who are scheduling video conferences at all hours to stay connected and make sure we’re alright and the Highwire team where people are working hard and have each other’s backs. And lastly my new meditation habit. Oh wait, I still don’t have time for that!” — Kathleen Gratehouse, Principal, San Francisco

 

“Still being able to go outside and enjoy nature.” — Kim General Manager, New York City  

 

 

 

 

“Being able to watch our new baby grow up. Shelter-in-place began when he turned four months. I love being able to see him grow and change daily.” — Mallory Cloutier, Vice President, San Francisco

 

 

 

“I’m grateful for the flower vendors who are open outside the bodegas in New York City. I worry for their health being outside, but I’m glad they still have a source of income, and I’m happy to have some beauty to brighten up my apartment while working from home.” — Kristi Piechnik, Account Executive, New York City

 

 

“I’m grateful to Scrabble for giving my boyfriend and me something to do besides distracti-bake and watch Tiger King. It keeps the mind sharp and healthy competition alive. Thanks, Scrabble!” — Brenna Hogan, Account Manager, Chicago 

 

 

 

“I’m grateful for the sunshine and nice weather that makes working from home just a bit more enjoyable! Even though I miss everyone at the Boston office, the silver lining of this WFH experience has been spending more time outside as winter finally turns to spring.” — Kathleen Flaherty, Intern, Boston 

 

“The unexpected gifts I’ve been most grateful for with this WFH situation are subtle but powerful. It’s the random Friday afternoon phone call I received from a colleague, checking in “just because.” It’s the unedited view of life I get to see with coworkers and clients via BlueJeans. And it’s the egoless mentality that we’re all just human and doing this crazy life together right now – in support of each other.” — Saige Smith, Account Director, Chicago 

 

What are you most grateful for during this time? Share with us in the comments below!

The State of Fintech Conferences in 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our global health and economy, the fintech community is finding ways to adjust and marshall its resources and technology to help aid governments and consumers

It’s inevitable that fintech conferences this year have canceled or pushed out their events. Though some have resorted to a virtual option, and sticking to their original dates. While virtual events will certainly have a different look and feel, with the right set tactics, you’ll be able to achieve your goals, whether that includes sales prospecting, recruitment, fostering customer engagement, gathering competitive intelligence, or visibility. Keep in mind that digital advertising, content optimized for specific channels, and interactive forums for dialogue and engagement, among other strategies, can ensure you make the most of both virtual and physical events. 

Looking for insight on the state of fintech conferences? We’ve compiled a list of the major 2020 fintech conferences and noted their status. We hope to see you there (either virtually or possibly later this year in person). If you are hosting your own virtual event, learn more about how Highwire can support you here or get in touch with us at hi@highwirepr.com.

Continuing as Planned (For Now)

Finovate Fall — September 14-16, 2020, NYC

Money 2020 — October 25-28, 2020, Last Vegas

 

Gone Virtual

Consensus Distributed — A virtual event starting May 11, 2020. 

 

Postponed Until Later in the Year

CB Insights Future of Fintech — Now planned for November 16-18, 2020, San Francisco

Finovate West — Formerly Finovate Spring, it’s now planned for November 23-4, 2020, San Francisco

Digital Banking Conference — Now planned for December 7-9, 2020 in Austin, TX

Lendit — According to the website, “LendIt Fintech USA 2020 has officially been rescheduled for September 30 through October 1, 2020.”

 

Canceled

Fortune Brainstorm Finance — Originally slated for June 2020 in Montauk.

SALT Conference — Originally slated for May 2020 in Las Vegas. SALT Middle East is still listed as on for December 2020. Check back for updates. 

The “Cyber Scoop” from Kelly Jackson Higgins 

With the current media climate, it’s more important than ever to understand reporters’ news beats to make sure the precarious reporter to PR professional relationship remains mutually beneficial. I had the privilege of speaking to a long-time media friendly of Highwire, Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading. Kelly has been a member of the Dark Reading team for almost 15 years covering security, and was recently selected as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity journalists in the U.S. 

In the Q&A below, Kelly shares helpful insight into how she’s seeing the coronavirus pandemic shape the cyber media landscape and tips from her remote team on how to balance work and life. Oh, and one fun fact that you didn’t see coming! 

Courtney: How are you seeing COVID-19 shape the cyber media landscape? What kind of cyber stories are you interested in covering outside of COVID-19?

Kelly: It’s actually really hard not to see the influence of the pandemic on the industry as a whole now and all of the new challenges it poses to security teams – work from home security, possible budget cuts as the economy suffers, and an exacerbation of already-tight staffing issues. Even so, we want to keep it in perspective and also stay on top of how the attackers are crafting, targeting and evolving their campaigns and where the weak links are for defenders, and any new technologies that emerge.

Courtney: How are you staying sane while working 100% remotely? Any advice to share on how to properly manage work-life balance? 

Kelly: I have had a home office for more than 20 years, and all of our staff and contributors are remote, so there hasn’t been any adjustments there for us. I will say, the biggest challenge in working from home is knowing when to turn it off – it’s always there, and you work longer hours because of it. The key is creating boundaries, both physical (a separate room for your office) and mental. Sure, it’s harder now to go out and do something to decompress, but go outdoors or to another space in your home where you can relax, get some fresh air, or exercise both before and after work.

Courtney: Do you have any tips/tricks for PR folks as they try to engage with security reporters during such a chaotic time? Any PR horror stories? 

Kelly: Please don’t pitch us on stories we have already covered. Our inboxes are already overflowing, so please take the time to see what we have written about before you pitch us about something “new” that we have already posted.

Courtney: Do you look up to anyone in the security industry?

Kelly: My mentor and boss Tim Wilson, a gifted writer whose sharp reporting skills inspired my path, and who always keeps us one step ahead with his vision for Dark Reading. I’d say my security professional role model is Window Snyder. She is one of the smartest and most accomplished experts in the security industry.

Courtney: Do you have a favorite story you’ve worked on? 

Kelly: That’s a tough one — there are articles I was proud of when they were the most timely or telling. If I had to pick one, it’s “The Morris Worm Turns 30” because it was really fun to work on, and it truly was a historic moment for security. 

Title: The Morris Worm Turns 30 “How the historic Internet worm attack of 1988 has shaped security – or not.”

Courtney: One random fun fact? 

Kelly: I was a Division I soccer player in college, and my dream was to be a sports writer. =)

Overall, my interview with Kelly shines light on why investigating reporters’ previous coverage and familiarizing yourself with their news beat is so important before clicking send on that pitch. Reporters’ inboxes are jammed now more than ever due to COVID-19, so be mindful. To Kelly’s point, take the time to find that new story rather than pitching something already covered – it will go a long way in building a trusted relationship and securing that coveted piece of client coverage. 

Ditch your bland COVID-19 security product pitch, reach out to reporters to see how they are doing in this difficult time and build a genuine narrative that will be useful for you and your client. 

Navigating the Digital Landscape during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every business, forcing a halt to most avenues of revenue. One avenue, however, remains a lifeline for organizations: digital platforms. From Zoom conferences to AMAs, we’re entering into a new reality on how to best connect with consumers. 

To best take advantage of this, organizations need to understand how to navigate this current climate. Below you’ll find a list of best practices to consider when diving into your new strategy: 

 

  • Update your communications social media crisis plan: Create a COVID-19 specific response bank and escalation path that includes all key stakeholders for the situation. If you don’t have an existing social media crisis plan, consider creating one that includes the following:  

 

      • What counts as a crisis and guidelines for how to identify 
      • Roles and responsibilities for every department.
      • A communication plan for internal updates.
      • Up-to-date contact information for critical employees.
      • Approval processes for messaging posted on social media.
      • Any pre-approved external messages, images, or information.
      • A link to your social media policy.

 

  • Create social media guidelines for employees: Guide employees on how they should talk about the business on social media during the COVID-19 crisis. Your policy is dependent on factors like size and independence of the company. It should also include information around:

 

      • Privacy guidelines
      • Copyright reminders
      • Brand voice guidelines

 

  • Secure your accounts: Hackers and bad actors can take advantage of a crisis, and we’re seeing an increase in attacks due to COVID-19 (ie: spreading malware, stealing personal information, etc.). Update your passwords and have dedicated managers who have access to social channels. Don’t keep your passwords in a document or email, or anywhere where it is at risk of being stolen/hacked. 
  • Use a social media management platform: Now is the time to set up your listening dashboard to monitor conversations and concerns in real time. Monitor social sentiment to see how consumers are reacting to your brand and address questions as they come in – setting up a response plan with dedicated community managers can also help. 
  • Engage and respond when needed: Have canned statements ready for conversations, but remember these are people you’re talking to. Approach with empathy, but keep it short. 
  • Stop all scheduled content: Remember, content today may not work tomorrow. Stop all scheduled content and switch to a daily scheduling plan. 
  • Save your “lessons learned:” This will be a learning experience for marketers/communications teams everywhere. Keep a log of what worked, what didn’t go as planned, and make notes for future crisis planning. 

 

Then, organizations can move forward and enact their digital strategy. Here are some things to consider when you begin sharing content across digital platforms:

  • Consistency: From employee communications to customer letters, it’s important for your audiences to have a clear understanding of your perspective on the topic. For example, Lululemon has repeatedly emphasized the importance of community on their social channels, and have upheld that by continuing to pay employees and livestreaming workout classes. 
  • Authenticity: Brands that have a credible reason to be providing information and updates should; it should not be self-serving.  
  • Highly transparent: Deliver clear communication about what decisions are being made and why  
  • Respectful and aware: ensure your content topics, tone and frequency are appropriate and relevant in today’s environment. For example, avoid events promotion or self-serving updates that could be deemed insensitive.
  • Helpful: Offer content and information that is relevant, beneficial and actionable

If you’re looking for more insight on how to optimize your digital strategy during COVID-19, please reach out to digital@highwirepr.com 

Cybersecurity best practices for your new home office

Image source: Unsplash, Luke Peters

 

As Highwire, and other businesses across the U.S., transition to a remote workforce, it’s never been more important for us to consider our personal cybersecurity. Understanding the steps needed to take your security into your own hands is critical to protecting your data, and your company’s data against cyberattacks. We’ve compiled a list of our top five best practices for your easy reference below.

1. Beware of Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks, specifically on work emails, have dramatically increased as more people work from home because of COVID-19. Phishing attacks often take the form of emails coming from someone posing as a trusted person, like a coworker, attempting to obtain sensitive information like usernames, passwords and financial details. All employees should be hyper-aware of any email that asks you for personal information. Some ways to spot phishing emails include looking at the email of the sender. If it doesn’t have a recognizable email address, it’s probable a scam. If the email uses a generic greeting or has spelling errors, it is probably not from a verified sender. If you’re ever unsure about an email you receive, it’s always better to pick up the phone and call that person directly to confirm before giving away any sensitive information. Another best practice is to never click on anything in an email without checking the sender and instead type the web addresses into your browser yourself.

2. Use Two-Factor Authentication

Now that businesses have gone completely digital, all employees should have 2-factor authentication (2FA) for any company logins to ensure that only the right people are accessing certain sensitive data. 2FA only grants a user access once they have successfully presented two (or more) pieces of evidence that they are the person they claim to be. This could mean logging into your account on your computer with your password first, then entering a code you received on your cell phone to confirm it’s you. That second form of identification should always be something that you have on your person, whether a code sent to a cell phone, a security key, or a one time generated code from an app. You should enable 2FA on all of the devices and applications you use for work.

3. Separate Work from Play

As our two worlds, home and work, become one. It is important to keep your work and play on separate computers. When people are at home, it’s easy to mix the two, as you click on links or do things at home you may not typically do in the office. This can lead to major security issues. For example, if your device is stolen and you have your work accounts linked, it may be easier for malicious actors to gain access to sensitive information.

4. Update, update, update

One of the best ways to ensure your devices are secure is to stay up to date on all settings. Users should make sure that all privacy settings are updated across their devices. Updating to the most recent softwares is also important. For example, most online tools like Zoom have been updating their settings during the pandemic to ensure user safety. In addition, we should all remember to update our passwords every 90 days. If you’re currently using a password that your cybersecurity team would laugh at, you may consider a password manager like Dashlane. A password manager stores all login information and helps you create and store complex passwords. Updating your passwords and making sure they are complex will make you less vulnerable to sophisticated cyber criminals.

5. Use a Virtual Private Network 

Hopefully, your new home office has password-protected Wi-Fi and uses at least WPA2 security protocol. But in this new remote workforce, where home Wi-Fi passwords may not be as strong in favor of making them easy to remember, employees may consider using virtual private networks (VPNs) to keep themselves, and the company IP, safe and secure. For those who may not know, a VPN extends a private network across a public network, helping to secure your devices. 

Overall, we know there’s a lot going on for you right now and security may not be at the top of priorities, but we hope these simple tips will show you how easy it is to stay protected during this pandemic and that instilling these best practices across all your  devices will help keep you, your family, and your company safe. 

Have any best practices you follow and would like to share? Reach out to jillian@highwirepr.com to share your best tips and tricks. We’d love to hear from you!

COVID-19 Will Spur Permanent Change in Healthcare

U.S. healthcare is archaic but COVID-19 has forced it to rapidly change. Health systems are now being pushed to move beyond their pen to paper method and adopt technologies they put aside for too long. While the pandemic continues to rear its ugly head, there are long-lasting and positive changes that will remain. 

1. The Doctor’s Office is Virtual

Telehealth is front and center in the COVID-19 era and the Trump administration has reduced major barriers that have inhibited physicians from using it in the past. Due to that effort, Forrester Research reported that in March alone telehealth visits surged by 50%

Beyond virtual visits, we’re also seeing an increase in remote patient monitoring tools which is a subcategory of telehealth that allows patients to use mobile medical devices and technology to gather patient-generated health data and send it to healthcare professionals. The FDA issued guidance to expand the availability and use of these tools in the wake of COVID-19. Digital health companies, like our client AliveCor, actively responded to this guidance by offering their KardiaMobile 6L device to monitor and measure long QTc, a side effect of some of the drugs used to combat COVID-19, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. 

With the large emphasis on telehealth tools, investment in the space continues to surge as evidenced by the nearly $788 million in Q1 funding alone. This trend will continue as simple diagnostic readings, like blood pressure and heart rhythm monitoring, and physician consultations will be handled remotely on the patient’s time. 

2. Mental Health is a Chronic Illness 

Mental health is a burgeoning healthcare crisis that has been further magnified by COVID-19. Social distancing, while keeping us safe, also spurs feelings of isolation, anxiety and depression. The Kaiser Foundation reported that nearly half of Americans feel that the coronavirus has negatively impacted their mental health. 

Similar to general healthcare practitioners, there has been a focus on enabling behavioral health specialists to provide care virtually. However, a recent POLITICO article shared how, despite alleviated regulations, there are still difficulties in reimbursement, and some mental health professionals remain preferential towards in-person visits. We’re also seeing that private sectors are finally investing in mental health companies starting to offer their services as part of their coverage. While there is some support from both the public and private sector, it’s not enough to meet the demand.

Similar to remote patient monitoring, more investments will be made to expand access to behavioral health services as mental health will be categorized as a chronic illness and become ingrained in the healthcare delivery model in a post-COVID world. 

3. Value-Based Care will Become the Only Model 

The pandemic is causing health systems to think critically about their resources and capacity. They are unable to treat individuals in the same way as they cater to the growing numbers of COVID-19 positive patients. 

While extreme, this is value-based care in action. The Affordable Care Act mandated that health systems think critically about how they treat patients – saving hospital beds for those most in need and treating those with less severe issues outside of the traditional healthcare setting. We’re also seeing the same consideration from patients who are now tapping their primary care doctors for more and using telehealth for less urgent matters. 

As investment towards digital healthcare innovation continues, we can expect the industry to strategically consider how it cares for patients at large. We’re transitioning away from the era of needing to see our physicians in-person to receive quality care and embracing the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring.  

Value-based care will be the only model we track towards moving forward.

 

 

 

The four things you must do to get the best video conferencing results

Home photo studioWe’re all going to be spending a lot more time doing video calls from home, it’s worth putting in the time and effort to get the best video conferencing setup. Sitting on a comfortable chair, at a sturdy desk, looking at a good quality monitor is no longer enough. Getting your home video conferencing setup right can make a big difference to you and your brand. Particularly if you’re engaging customers, conducting media interviews or producing webinar content from home. These tips will help you get the best video conferencing setup. 

Start with the Camera

Most people have a good quality camera built into their laptops. If you’re not putting out HD quality footage, consider investing in a camera that does. Depending on the kind of lighting you’re going to use, a Logitech Brio is a good first step for an external webcam. If you’re going to use a ring-light (helpful if you’re planning to do broadcast interviews) then look for a camera with a shoe mount, such as the Logitech Stream Cam

Sound that will get you listened to

One of the best investments get the best video conferencing quality is a condenser microphone. If you’re not willing to spend a couple of hundred dollars on something from Rode, then the Snowball Ice comes highly recommended. Alternatively, we’re also big fans of the Jabra Speak 510 which doubles as a microphone and a speaker. 

Lighting up your presence

Follow the stage rules for a basic three-light configuration consisting of a key light, fill light and backlight. The key light is the focus and the one you need shining at your face and with the highest strength. At approximately half the strength of your key light comes a fill light, which will help remove shadows. The backlight helps to even out the entire scene and introduce some highlights on your head and shoulders, making sure you look your best on video conferences. 

Invest in some proper lights if you’re doing a lot of video with customers or prospects. Look at a GVM ring light paired with a shoe-mount camera to act as your key light. Neewer stage lights can complement to act as your fill and background lights, or skip the ring light and use each Neewer as your key and fill lights. 

Getting the best video will make a big difference in how colleagues, customers, and prospects respond to you. Oh, and keep some foundation nearby.

Don’t clutter your background 

If you don’t have a blank wall to work with, consider ordering a personal background with a solid color that works well and ideally, fits with your brand. Grab a backdrop holder and pair it with a colored backdrop for less than $50 and you’ll transform your setting to studio quality.

Getting it right

Building a home studio setup takes some work and a level of investment. It’s worth the investment to make sure your executives represent your brand on screen. Sales and marketing teams will get better engagement if they look and sounds their best.

Nailing your home setup doesn’t need to be complex – invest a little in getting sound, light and camera right and you’ll have a big impact. We’re happy to help.

Highwire acquires Wonderscript. Say hello to our new digital services!

James Beechinor-Collins and James Holland join Highwire

This morning we announced that Highwire has acquired digital consultancy, Wonderscript. James Beechinor-Collins (JBC) and James Holland, founder and co-founder of Wonderscript, have joined Highwire to lead our digital offering, bringing the wider Wonderscript team together with Highwire’s existing digital strategists and specialists.

It’s a move which helps us offer more skills, solutions and scale to our clients in the face of unprecedented communications challenges and an increased focus on digital channels.

The combined team will work across all clients, practice areas and pursue opportunities in content, social, search and digital experiences. They will also continue existing programs of professional development and training for the wider Highwire PR team, continuing our commitment of transforming our approach to communications and marketing, with digital capabilities running throughout.

“JBC and James have been instrumental in the rapid growth of Highwire’s digital offering over the last year as trainers, mentors and collaborators,” said Kathleen Gratehouse, principal of Highwire PR.

“Culturally and philosophically Highwire is well aligned with Wonderscript in our common goal to deliver high-impact business results for clients through the full spectrum of storytelling, content, influencer and digital activations.”

“Our clients’ world is constantly changing and we need to be organized to help them address that change,” said JBC, founder of Wonderscript. “This coming together gives us the best possible platform to ensure we can help our clients stay ahead.”

Taking a holistic approach to digital is one of the most important aspects of the move. James Holland, co-founder of Wonderscript explained that the opportunity to build on the team’s existing training programs and re-think how an entire agency integrates digital is what drove the acquisition.

“Few PR agencies have proven themselves as forward-thinking as Highwire in transforming its entire team to think digitally. This isn’t about adding on siloed specialists, it’s a ground-up reimagining of how digital can infuse new value and possibility into communications and marketing,” he said.

“At a time when every organization on Earth is discovering a drastic need to think digitally, Highwire has the capacity to deliver in more compelling ways than ever.”

You can read more about Highwire’s acquisition of Wonderscript in Provoke Media and PR Week.