Demystifying DevOps: Lessons for the PR World

One thing that really jumped out at us in the decade we’ve spent working with our B2B clients is that DevOps practices are not just for those who think in code. They’re largely applicable to the creative PR work we do on a daily basis. We share such similar workflows, that we couldn’t help but pick up a thing or two along the way (and call out some bad habits to avoid).

So, let’s start a new project request…

Conceptually, DevOps is a way for developers and operations teams to work more efficiently with one another. But there’s a notion that seamless workflows can be achieved via an application, and while DevOps tools will help expedite project release cycles, it’s a means to a broader solution. Ultimately, the purpose of DevOps is to get each team to anticipate the others’ needs, resulting in quick product development, and fewer errors, while still being secure.

Likewise in PR, we’re working with a number of different teams that must function the same way in order to make accurate and timely decisions. Being successful at this requires a synchronized effort that doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

By merging the following into your existing account structures, you’ll be on the path towards DevOps readiness.

I. Make To-Do Lists a Responsibility for Everyone

While to-do lists are useful for personal purposes, when they’re extended to a group of people, to-do lists become stale faster than bread. Typically, one owner makes themselves responsible for updating key action items for everyone which goes unappreciated and is unrealistic long-term. These documents get lost and the attempt at organization gets squandered despite the best of intentions.

Instead, make it the responsibility of everyone to update priority grids. And, so it doesn’t take away from other work, have team members engage with the document in the simplest ways possible. To ensure regular engagement, color-code and highlight within the document to signify priorities and project status. The tagging function in Google’s Suite can be a useful feature as well. Just remember to be flexible in the format because what works for one may not for the whole.

II. Schedule Review Sessions with/for Key Stakeholders

This may seem like overkill, but any sort of structure that can be applied to a revision cycle will get assignments out the door faster. Whether it’s a plan, pitch, or new business deck, once you’ve completed your specific portion, schedule half-hour windows for key stakeholders to review said work and a fifteen-minute debrief for them to impart their feedback.

In doing so, you’ve removed the element of chance from the equation. No longer will you need to ask “has this been reviewed?” and “what needs to get changed?” because it’s already been baked in. Using this method, projects can be shuffled up the ladder seamlessly and without delay.

III. Explore Slack integrations

If you’re using a messaging platform, like Slack, you’re aware that it’s a breeding ground for lost correspondences. That quick DM often goes unnoticed and projects assigned there are left floating in the wind without an owner. This compounds a negative stigma around Slack that it can’t be used for mission-critical client activities, and even worse, gets thought of as a secondary means of communication.

Common practice says use email for everything, but Slack specifically, has a plethora of useful integrations geared towards project management. And truth be told, email is not much better at keeping things organized (unless you’ve unlocked the “inbox zero” achievement).

Consider installing Marker annotated screenshots, Tettra internal Wikipedia, Trello collaborative to-do list, and Google Drive for tracked changes at a moment’s notice as ways to augment Slack for a greater purpose – to consolidate one-off disparate applications.

Since elementary school, we as humans have largely struggled with projects that rely on us working together. Project members operate in silos (doing too much or too little independently), tasks get repeated when groups don’t clearly specify priorities/deadlines, and most often, nothing gets done outside the confines of classroom walls or scheduled library get-togethers.

These bad project habits from our youth have carried over into workplace environments. As software development adopted DevOps, PR must derive its own response to the same problem – whether that’s DevOps or another buzzword.

I. For developers, this is otherwise known as issue tracking. The most common use cases include: tracking tasks and work statuses, elaborating on new code implementations and accepting support requests or bug reports.

II. If you’ve heard the word scrum thrown around that is this in practice. Although it was initially tied to software development, scrums are starting to be explored under different contexts.

III. In order to get DevOps right, it requires a single solution that accomplishes all 7 phases of a release cycle. Slack as a core tenant for an agency would eliminate the need for individualized repositories that meet very specific needs. If used correctly, Slack could create one single truth.

Data, Data and More Data at Strata Data

Data is the lifeblood of an organization. Data is the new oil. Data should be treated as if it were water and not oil, in that it should be clean and accessible to everyone at a company. Regardless of what analogy you prefer to use, the simple truth of the matter is that data is a company’s most important and strategic asset.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At Strata Data, dozens of vendors ranging from large publicly traded companies such as IBM and Cloudera to VC backed unicorns (Collibra) and new startups (Privacera) flocked to the Javits Center to showcase how they are enabling organizations to clean, organize, secure, govern, analyze and (insert every other action that I missed) data. While all of these vendors were busy trying to get the attention of the potential customers walking around the show floor, their respective communications teams had an equally challenging task of cutting through all of the noise generated at the show in order to breakthrough to relevant reporters. 

Some companies fared better than others – and I’d like to personally think that the clients Highwire had at the show did a great job – at securing meaningful interviews and coverage. But what does it take to achieve this outcome, especially at a show such as Strata Data which has such a narrow focus? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Relationships Matter: The first time a reporter or influencer hears about your company (unless your organization is coming out of stealth mode) should not be when you are trying to get them to meet at a crowded conference. Relationships are built over time. Make sure to invest time in getting to know the reporters who are relevant to your space and ensure they have a firm grasp of what your company does. This make take a few interactions, but the investment will be worth as a reporter is more likely – although not a guarantee – to be receptive to a pitch around a conference if he or she knows who the company is. 
  • Compelling Content is King: What truly stands out for reporters are unique angles and stories. How is a customer actually using a product to drive real world results? What is this new technology or feature doing to help customers solve critical pain points? These are the stories that reporters care about, not that version 5.7-2 has a new GUI.
  • Announce Your News Early: One of the easiest ways to get in front of the news generated at any conference is to simply announce your news a few days to a week prior to the start of the show. This helps increase brand awareness and generate buzz prior to the show, gives your sales team some timely and relevant content to share with prospects to drive them to your booth and reporters may be less busy in the week before the show than at a show where they are hustling from meeting to meeting.

While a few companies I met with on the show floor cited a decrease in overall attendance from years prior, the quality of attendees was better. Strata Data might not be the largest conference, but it certainly remains one of the top data shows of the year. Does your company have plans on attending Strata Data in San Jose in March? If so, what approaches do you have plans on taking at the show? Share your thoughts with me via Twitter @JFerrary.

A Non-technical Guide to Breaking into Tech PR

Tech PR is a bustling, innovative and ever-changing field – but it’s not one I ever foresaw myself going into. As a journalism and Spanish double major whose most relevant workplace experience was working for a lifestyle magazine conglomerate, I didn’t really know what I’d be getting myself into at a tech PR agency. Luckily, it’s been one of the most wonderful experiences I could imagine, and I’ve grown and learned every day at Highwire. Now, a year into my tech PR career, I have a few tips to share for anyone entering the space who thought they never would:

Read all day long

Read as much as you can. Obviously not all day because there’s also work to be done, but take the time at the beginning of your career to get familiar with the industry. Read everything from breaking news to industry term definitions. It’s okay not to know what a cloud data warehouse off the bat – chances are you’ve never had to think about it before – so just look it up! You’re not expected to be an expert from day one, and that’s an advantage. Knowing what you don’t know allows you to prioritize learning while you get your feet wet before you’re expected to dive into the deep end. 

To narrow down your reading list, consider what specific news will be most relevant to you. There are numerous credible and interesting tech publications to use as resources including TechCrunch, WIRED, Fast Company and ZDNet. It’s worth considering what publications your client is most interested in getting featured in to understand the components of a story in that outlet. If your clients are focused on leadership in the industry, add Entrepreneur and Business Insider to your reading list. Alternatively, if they’re more focused on a technical audience, try TechTarget or InformationWeek.

Additionally, reading regularly will make you better at creating informed pitches, knowing where your client can contribute to news trends and holding stimulating conversation at dinner parties (joking, mostly). But don’t limit your reading extravaganza to the beginning of your career. The 24-hour news cycle means not only is news happening every day, but it’s happening every minute, so spend time every day dedicated to digging in – even if you think you know everything there is to know.

Ask anything

Your brain will be buzzing with a million questions. Don’t be scared to ask! At any good agency, there will be people who know the answers and are happy to help teach you. It can be nerve-racking to ask questions because you might think you should already know the answer, but no one is expected to know everything. Asking informed questions shows that you’re interested, invested and taking the time to think critically. And trust me, it’s better to ask a question about a project before you take it on than to get in too deep and realize you should have come prepared with more intel.

As far as best practices for asking questions, if you’re genuinely lost and it’s time-sensitive, fire away! If you have some time to look into the topic, do a bit of research and see what you can find. Anyone you ask will be grateful that you were considerate and thoughtful enough to give it a shot on your own. Additionally, figure out the right person to ask. If you’re confused about a client’s product, ask one of the experienced members of your team. If you’re not sure about a specific assignment, ask the reviewer. 

The best part about asking questions is that the answers you get give you an arsenal of knowledge that you can implement the next time around – and even use to answer questions for the people following in your footsteps. 

Understand goals

As you break into tech PR, you’ll realize that all of these general guidelines and best practices are great, but they only go so far. In client relations, team dynamics and personal career growth, there are a bevy of contributing factors that make each situation unique. 

For your career, ask your manager what goals you’re tracking toward at your level. You can’t prove your success if you don’t know what you’re measuring against. Once you understand your personal career goals, make a plan for how to achieve them. Discuss them with your teams and ask what you can contribute to that will put you on the right track.

For each team, you will have a separate set of goals. Internally, your managers will set expectations and that will often track to the goals of the client. You might be wondering why you get a certain request, and it’s fair to ask! Often, you’ll find that a project you’re working on is essential to a certain business or measurement goal that the client needs. Remembering that everyone you’re working with – inside and out of the agency – is working toward a North Star will help you understand their motivation.

Take it one day at a time

If you’re considering a career in tech PR, but have only ever written articles about engagement announcements and restaurant openings like me, don’t be scared off. There are a few key practices that can help you get started, and while the industry may seem overwhelming, you’ll learn day-by-day and the experience will be invaluable.

How Do We Scale Communications For High-Growth Companies?

Last month, Peter McCormack shared his thoughts on how to Scale Your PR Team from Startup to IPO  in a recent Highwire blog. But when you are a growth-stage company, everything must scale, including communications. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to host a webinar with Insight Partners and share my knowledge of how growth-stage companies can do just that.

Following are Five Key Takeaways:

Don’t Just Say You are a Leader, Be a Leader

Don’t just say you are a leader, be a leader. You need to take the long-term view and build relationships with the right influencers, including media. That means a give and take, and not every interaction will always have a direct outcome for you. Make sure to have a perspective on the industry, not just your company. Having executives contribute content on industry topics, point of views and external research will establish your company as a thought leader, strengthening trust and credibility with audiences including the media. 

Think big. Think Integrated.

Making sure all team members and executives understand the goal of each interaction will allow your organization to meet your long term marketing goals. PR requires an integrated approach; combining paid, earned, shared, and owned media will allow your organization to gain the most value from your investment.

Funding Just the Foundation

Funding is becoming more and more competitive. Think strategically about your announcement. What is the bigger story about the market and your company you are trying to tell? Consider an exclusive to give a reporter an opportunity to tell that story.

Finding the Right Agency 

Once you’ve developed an established internal PR team an agency can help bring your company to new heights. Onboarding an agency provides expertise, strong media relations, prestige, scalability, and transparency. When searching for an agency it’s important to research industry experience. Not every agency will understand the industry and media landscape necessary to help advance your goals. Before on boarding, make sure you meet the team that will be working on your account. This will allow you to see if there is a connection and if the agency is a good fit for your business. 

Making the Most of It

Choosing the right agency will create a strong partnership setting you up for a path to success. As you continue to build your relationship, it’s important to be transparent and communicate all information both positive and negative. Having clear communication will help ensure you get the most value out of the relationship.

State of Media Report: AI Edition

Artificial intelligence “AI,” is one of the most talked about topics in the media today. In fact, according to data from TechNews, since January, there have been an average of 4,000 articles per month that mention AI. From the role AI is playing in helping autonomous vehicles make decisions in milliseconds to how it is providing recommendations to healthcare providers about potentially life saving treatment options to all of the “boring” AI uses in between, we read about and engage with AI on a daily basis. 

However, with all of the buzz that AI is creating, there are some areas of concern including the ethical debate surrounding AI and whether or not AI will take jobs away. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to cut through the noise the topic of AI is creating. While there is a fantastic group of journalists and influencers who cover AI, they are inundated with pitches, news and other information from companies trying to stand out as a leading authority in the space.

We work with our clients on a daily basis to uncover the unique AI storylines – ranging from cutting edge research on key advancements within the field of AI to use cases driving real world business results – and determine the best integrated approach for telling those stories. We’ve landed top tier placements with tier-one business press, collaborated with AI influencers to amplify messages to target audiences and executed creative campaigns across various social media platforms to position our clients are experts in this field. 

We are on top of key trends in AI and speak with the top reporters in this space daily and that’s why we created this Media Insights AI edition report. This report will detail the top trends currently being discussed in the media related to AI, the top AI reporters and influencers and what organizations can do in order to stand out amongst the crowd. 

To download the report, please fill out the form below. If you are interested in learning more about how to make your AI story stand out among the crowd, please don’t hesitate to reach out –

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

How to Breakthrough Competitor News During the Conference Season

With the summer conference season in full swing, and fall events like Fortune MPW, Microsoft Ignite and AWS re:Invent rapidly approaching, it’s likely you’ve already established a solid strategy for the “known knowns” – your client is sitting on a panel, you’ve agreed upon meeting and coverage goals, you can recite each executive’s media wishlist with the same, serene reverence of Arya’s hit list.

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Now for the known unknowns. Over the past few weeks, you’ve intensely monitored (stalked) Twitter to identify press attendees, fine-tuned messaging for speaking opportunities and mapped out showroom meeting locations with the navigational precision of Magellan. You might think your event strategy is bulletproof, but it’s critical to account for one of the biggest factors outside of our control: news that’s not your own.

The announcement a competitor teased turns out to be a major partnership. One of the big sponsors unveils a new product during the opening keynote. We all expect this to happen, but, depending on the nature and breadth of any given announcement – it can be enough to turn your white-hot media plan lukewarm. Often, we’re lucky enough to have some idea of what the “news” will be ahead of time and can prepare accordingly, but we know that’s not always the case. 

Here are some strategies to anticipate and breakthrough the biggest news of the season, and even use it to your advantage.

Their News, Your Gain

When Apple announced Apple TV+ back in March, an endless number of companies, across industries, weighed in with their own analysis of the steaming market and OTT landscape at large. When speculations arose around Microsoft’s plans to reveal its cloud gaming platform at E3, you know press attendees were well armed with the latest data on the future of gaming and streaming in the cloud.

Barring any roadblocks around customer or partner relationships, there is an enormous opportunity to take advantage of competitor or “other” news by weaving it into executive messaging. This could be for their own speaking opportunity or for meetings with reporters onsite – either in the form of strategic thought leadership or owned data that offer a unique or alternate perspective on the launch or announcement. Try as you might, reporters won’t look your way if you’re spinning cartwheels, especially if they came to see somersaults. Talk about the somersaults. Lean into news cycle and leverage your own expertise to speak strategically about the news at hand.

Use Your Content, Make it Social

We recently shared digital integration strategies to help break through the noise at trade shows. The fact is, social media continues to play a significant role at conferences — whether it’s elevating brand presence through paid Twitter campaigns, or drawing foot traffic to booths for product demos via geo-targeting. The good news is that the same approach can be applied when it comes to cutting through competitor news.

Ideally, you’ve been amplifying your social strategy outside of and well ahead of any event. As a result, you’ve likely identified key competitor announcements that are coming down the pipeline and expected to launch at said conference. From there, be sure to gather internal content like data or analysis from executives attending the event, and prepare tweets ahead of time using relevant conference hashtags. If not a direct competitor, you could also use hashtags another company is using around their announcement — if ya can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This approach could potentially result in getting interest from a reporter following the announcement, looking for supporting stats or industry perspective to add color to their story.

Take Advantage of Onsite Presence 

Even if another product launch or announcement overshadows your own news at an event, the fact is you can still leverage your onsite presence to connect with reporters and key stakeholders. For instance, maybe you weren’t able to get a reporter you’ve been chasing for months on the phone, but you could strike up a conversation while waiting in line for coffee or exiting a session. Here again, you can point to the topics that are top of mind — like a competitor’s announcement — to offer your own thoughts and perspective on the news and ask them what stories they’re planning following the event. Easier said than done, but conferences offer a singular opportunity to hustle to make the connections and secure the interviews that are critical to hitting your goals. At least, until the next one.

As you are busy preparing for the fall conference season and want a gut check on your plans, feel free to reach out –

#HWCyberSquad Named “PR Team of the Year” by Info Security Product Guide

Highwire’s security practice (#HWCyberSquad) was recognized as the Public Relations Team of the Year by the 15th Annual 2019 Info Security PG’s Global Excellence Awards, and as the leader of this tenacious group, I could not be more honored and proud of our team!

Over the years, our cybersecurity practice has expanded and evolved, becoming a core component of Highwire’s diverse client base. We work with innovative global brands who are tackling the cybersecurity problem from different angles — from applying AI to emerging threats, to creating new categories around human centric security and bridging relationships between security and DevOps, we have deep experience that runs the security gamut.

Our team has been responsible for driving multi-faceted integrated PR campaign, leveraging social media to amplify earned and owned content with paid promotion, and developing meaningful relationships with top tier media in the security space for the better part of its past 10 years as an agency. To be recognized and rewarded for our hard work means so much to our team, and further exemplifies our belief in the work and effort that we are putting in every day to elevate our clients’ stories.

The Global Excellence Awards, compiled by the industry leader in information security research – Info Security Program Guide, recognize cybersecurity programs and information technology solutions with innovative products, solutions, and services that are setting the bar higher for others in all areas of security and tech.

In addition to recognizing Highwire for its work in the industry, we are proud to share that this year’s Global Excellence Awards also recognized five of our outstanding clients for their ground-breaking work in security, including:

  • Akamai was recognized as a Grand Trophy Winner, a gold winner for both Enterprise Secure Access and Security Products and Solutions for Retail of the year; a silver winner for Innovation in Enterprise Security, DDoS Mitigation, Security Products and Solutions for Media and Entertainment, and best overall Security Company of the Year; and a bronze winner for White Paper or Research Report of the year.
  • Code42 was recognized as the Security Products and Solutions for Enterprise winner of the year.
  • Darktrace was recognized as a gold winner in cloud security, and Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and SCADA; a silver winner for Cyber Security Vendor Achievement of the Year, for its launch of the first ever autonomous response technology to neutralize cyber-attacks; and was recognized as the Best Overall Security Company of the Year.
  • InfoBlox was recognized as the New Products and Services winner of the year, for the Infoblox ActiveTrust Suite; and a bronze winner for Best Deployments in U.S.A..
  • Ixia was recognized as a silver winner for Best Security Hardware Product (New or Updated version), for Vision ONE with Active SSL; and a gold winner for Cyber Security Vendor Achievement of the Year, for serving as an integral addition to Keysight’s continued industry leadership.

As a security practice, we could not be more proud to work with the people that we do, day in and day out. Our teams and our clients are an exceptional group, and as demonstrated above, are certainly doing more than their fare share to pave the way for the future of an industry that evolves and advances quicker than most. For this award, and for our team, our clients and to work in the industry that we do everyday, we are incredibly grateful. Here’s to seeing what the next year has in store.

Highwire CES 2019: Industry Trends, Gadgets and Gizmos

CES 2019

Robo-sharks. 8K televisions. A machine that makes fresh-baked bread. We came, we saw, we conquered all of CES 2019 — and a few weeks later, we’re still dreaming of some of the latest and greatest in tech innovations! The Highwire team reports back to you with the trends that stood out to us the most (with a few cool gadgets here and there):

Madison Moore, Digital Strategist
Smart home design has moved from fantasy to reality for consumers. Everything from smart wine refrigerators (to help you perfectly pair your roasted chicken dinner with a Chardonnay) to smart toilets (yes, that’s a thing), to alarm systems and connected kitchen devices were front and center at CES 2019. What’s impressive is how many of these smart home devices are working in tandem together, controlled by smartphones and Alexa/Google. The emphasis here is not on robots and smart devices taking over your home. Rather, they can help you cut down on the little things so you can spend more time with friends and family. The downside? A lot of this technology is not yet available in the United States, although reports say that most of the tech is easy to modify for U.S. markets. It’s safe to say we might have fully connected homes and apartments in the not-so-distant future (and I’ll be the first person in line to purchase that smart wine fridge…).

There was also a strong focus on mobility at CES 2019. Of course, there were some sexy, futuristic smart cars to ogle over (think: the rosy-gold futuristic BMW Vision iNEXT), but the real discussions around smart cities and smart communities were what Highwire was after. At the forefront of the discussion around autonomous and self-driving vehicles was safety, privacy, and policy. How will Congress take action to create policies, especially as things become more connected and we begin rolling out this technology to the general public and not just test subjects? Companies like Samsung, Waymo, and Verizon believe that America is in a leading position on connected and autonomous vehicles, but there needs to be bipartisan consensus and some sort of congressional infrastructure legislation in place to bring them to the masses: safely.

Sarah Koniniec, Account Manager
I thought one of the more interesting topics was the very sudden disillusionment (or rather – reality check) with 5G. In the weeks leading up to CES, we saw a significant groundswell around 5G thanks to the Verizon keynote, as well as a myriad of to-be-announced products claiming to be 5G ready.

If you ask the major U.S. telecom companies, they’ll tell you 5G has arrived. That’s not really the case though, and we saw this play out on a very public stage. *grabs popcorn* We saw both Verizon and AT&T claiming to be first to 5G, while KT argues that a robot in South Korea is its first 5G customer. We saw AT&T updating phones with a fake 5G icon, and almost immediately we saw John Legere (T-Mobile’s CEO) clapback on Twitter. And all of this arguing about what 5G is (or isn’t) doesn’t bode well for consumers who are looking for faster connectivity, lower latency, and a seamless experience from device to device.

I’ve long been saying that 5G will be America’s next big infrastructure project, and I think in the next two years we’ll start to see this play out in a major way. The private sector will need to rely heavily on the public sector if we’re going to bring improved connectivity to the masses. But working closely with politicians and government agencies will be a challenge for many large tech companies that are not feeling the love from Washington right now. Things like working with the FCC to open up additional spectrum, or working with city planners to map out smart cities enabled by 5G, are crucial for setting up the infrastructure that will encourage widespread 5G adoption.

When you combine the power of 5G technology with a bunch of other technologies that are also evolving at the same time, many of which we saw at CES — from autonomous vehicles to augmented and virtual reality, to smart home and IoT trinkets — you’ve got capabilities that can absolutely transform the way consumers live and work. But for now, we’re not ready.

Sophia Gribbs, Business Development Coordinator
A major topic of conversation at CES this year was data privacy. Apple, a brand that usually doesn’t have a presence at the conference, made an impossible-to-miss jab at its competitors. A massive billboard overlooking Google and Amazon booths at CES read, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned our data “is being weaponized us with military efficiency” at the Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners held annually in Europe.

At a CES panel about American privacy regulations in a post-GDPR world, former House representative Darrell Issa discussed data privacy with industry leaders. The FTC does not have a best practices document, and the panel agreed the obligation is on the Commission for further guidance. When discussing whether the United States should adopt GDPR, the consensus was that human rights should be protected and that we should set a baseline for what data rules should be. Issa emphasized the industry has to lead because “Congress will not get it right.” A state-by-state solution for data laws was proposed for a harmonized nation.

Personally, I admired the emphasis on wellness this year in Vegas. Yes, Royole’s foldable phone, HYPERVSN’s 3-D holographics and LG’s rollable OLED TVs are quite alluring. But the technology that directly impacts one’s health and understanding of one’s body has the capacity to greatly improve the quality of life.

Omron’s HeartGuide smartwatch measures blood pressure to allow for continuous monitoring at home. Stanley Black & Decker unveiled Pria, the home care companion that can serve medication and act upon voice commands. Pria features a camera, speaker and microphone so caregivers and family members can administer care in real-time. TouchPoint provides wearables for stress release with haptic vibrations at different intensities. Philips showcased a number of SmartSleep technologies to better understand sleep problems and to identify solutions.

Walking around the massive trade show floor is bound to make anyone hungry! Impossible Foods debuted its Impossible Burger 2.0, a patty that identically mimics the look, texture and taste of beef. The food truck even gave out free burgers so conference attendees could taste for themselves. In the Technology’s Innovators and Disruptors supersession, Impossible Foods CEO Patrick Brown cited his motivation originates from focusing on the most important problem he thought he could solve.

These brands combine science and tech to take a stab at improving consumers’ general well-being. I look forward to watching healthcare technology continue to take center stage in 2019!

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

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

A glowing light in cyberspace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Forget the Fundamentals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Targeting New Audiences Through New Mediums

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

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

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

Tomorrow’s Hot Enterprise Topics

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

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

Breaking Through the Noise

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

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

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

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

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