High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

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.