If you asked me where I’d be five years ago, the likelihood is I wouldn’t have said I’d be working in technology PR. Some people have the perception that tech, especially B2B, is dry and stagnant. However, they couldn’t be more wrong. We work in one of the fastest growing industries, serving clients that are innovating in consumer electronics, cybersecurity, adtech, ecommerce, mobile, IoT, fintech, software, communication, the list goes on. Behind each and every company – whether a tech giant or disruptive start up – there’s a story to unearth and tell.
I joined Babel fresh out of university without knowing a lot about technology. I’d always been interested in how it works but I certainly didn’t know LTE and OTT from ISP and SDE. Fast forward three years and, thanks to my role at Babel, a London-based technology PR agency, I now have an appreciation of the technical workings behind sending a Whatsapp from my iPhone, FaceTiming my friends across the globe, or asking Alexa what the weather is like.
I’ve been lucky enough to trial and launch new products in Europe, the US and even Canada, travel to various locations across the continent to attend shows, and even work with an ethical hacker. I’ve learnt an awful lot, it’s been a real eye opener and it’s certainly been exciting.
Still not convinced? Here are four reasons why tech PR is a rewarding career path:
Tech is a hot topic and impacts your everyday life
Firstly, technology is one of the most talked about topics in the world. It touches every single aspect of our lives. Facebook, Netflix, Google and Amazon may dominate the tech agenda but smaller, less known companies are also making a difference. From 3D printing rockets and inventing pizza-making robots to launching social networks to reduce food waste and developing nanotechnology to clean up pollution, there is so much going on this space.
Effective PR campaigns can help bring these stories to life and get a company’s message out there and heard by the people that matter. Working behind the scenes to make this happen means you’ll often be among the first to hear about new ideas, innovations and products.
Tech PR gived you the oppertunity to work in a fast-paced enviroment
For some of us, it’s difficult to imagine a life without Netflix, Amazon or Apple. A decade ago, there was no iPhone to order an Uber, scroll through Instagram or find that restaurant on Google Maps. Spotify launched in 2008, Apple only released its first iPad in 2010 and 4G wasn’t available on all smartphones until 2011. My point here is that in the last ten years, we’ve seen incredible innovation in technology and, with the arrival of artificial intelligence, VR and AR, it’s likely that we’ll see dramatic advances in the next decade.
Working in technology PR means that you’ll never stop expanding your knowledge of the sector, so you’ll need to learn to think on your feet and pick up new concepts quickly. Quick career progression in PR relies on constant learning and discovering new ways to build narratives and engage your target audience. There are opportunities to advance rapidly, with many agencies having clear career paths, supported by training and mentoring.
No two days are the same
If you ask anyone working in PR, I’m sure they’ll tell you there’s no such thing as a ‘typical day.’ Technology PR is no exception. As the lines between marketing, advertising and PR continue to blur, today’s tech PR professional has become skilled in a range of areas. One day you’ll find yourself on the phone pitching a story to journalists or managing a client’s social media accounts, and the next you’ll be researching a prospect’s industry and market, writing blog posts, website copy or contributed articles. The very nature of the job means you’re often working on multiple projects at once. This variety is something I’ve found to be extremely gratifying.
Tech PR is social
I’m not talking about social media here, although, it’s obviously a very important tool for PRs in today’s digital era. Us PR professionals are a social bunch. Events, meet-ups and networking are all part of our calendar. However, it’s not just about building rapport with your colleagues. Developing relationships with journalists is a crucial part of our job. Editorial teams like to talk to real people and have interests outside of their work so if you’re a people person like me, tech PR is probably the job for you.
Does this sound like your cup of tea? Are you ticking all the boxes? If so, head over to our Careers page and find out what job opportunities we have available.
We’re pleased to announce that Babel’s Sophie has been shortlisted for the PRCA’s Reginald Watts Prize for Insight. The competition challenged young PR professionals to write a thought-provoking essay in response to a specific question about the PR and communications industry, set by the PRCA. Sophie’s essay is printed in full below, and the winner will be announced at an event on 17th October. Fingers crossed!
“In an age of revolution in digital communications, how would you define ‘Public Relations’?”
“What is PR?” This is a question that plagues conversations I have had with friends and family since embarking on a career in the communications industry. Ask anyone – whether they work in the industry or not – and you’re guaranteed to get a different spin on the concept. Even the many organisations and associations that govern how we practice PR today posit different explanations.
In today’s digital age, how should we be defining public relations? How much has the practice, and therefore the definition, evolved over time? And do we actually need to be so rigid with its definition?
PR – what’s it all about?
There’s been much debate over the definition of PR in recent years, which unsurprisingly has led to confusion amongst industry peers. PR is probably one of the most complicated professions to explain to people who aren’t in the field. The CIPR’s current definition notes that it’s “the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of […] influencing opinion and behaviour.” Across the pond, the PRSA claims PR is the “process that builds beneficial relationships between organisations and their publics.” Noticeably, almost every official definition assigned by professional associations refers to reputation or perception. The PRCA’s definition outlines that PR exists to “build a positive reputation and public image.” Are you confused yet?
A journey through PR history
Putting those definitions to one side, to truly understand the meaning of PR, it’s important to appreciate its evolution. Public relations is considered a relatively modern business function. However, in its simplest form, it dates back to Roman and Egyptian periods. Both Cleopatra and Julius Caesar used pseudo-events to build support for their policies as rulers.
The birth of modern PR came about in the early 20th century, when PR was arguably more about propaganda than press releases. Picture the famous 1914 “Lord Kitchener Wants You” poster to encourage voluntary recruitment among the UK military. But it was in 1919 that Edward Bernays, the “father of PR”, coined the term ‘public relations’, after seeing President Wilson’s success propagating punchy posters and perorations in a bid to change public opinion regarding the US entering World War I. Bernays took his learnings to American cigarette company Lucky Strike, who was looking to boost sales among women. Through a high-profile parade, with debutantes lighting cigarettes in unison, he paved the way to breaking down the social taboo around women smoking in public.
The CIPR’s definition hits the nail on the head when it comes to the essence of PR in Bernays’ time. PR existed to shift public perception and engage with a targeted group of stakeholders. The important thing to note here is that during this time PR was much more understated in influencing the public. Bernays recognised this subtlety, arguing in his seminal work, Propaganda (1928), that PR was “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses […] We are governed, our minds are moulded, our tastes formed, and our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
From Bernays to Babel
How has PR changed since then? Consumers now have access to numerous channels and devices; we are bombarded constantly with content. Brands are becoming their own media and, with the advent of the internet, bloggers and influencers have become content creators in their own right, some without even realising it. PR’s influence on society has become more obvious, with the public becoming much more cynical as a result.
What’s more, the very line between public relations, marketing and advertising has become increasingly blurred. This merging of disciplines is something that stood out when asking colleagues and friends for their definitions of PR. In relation to the in-house team at her law firm, a friend commented that “it’s basically advertising.” A colleague also forecasted that in five years, PRs will “move towards a more marketing type role, rather than what we currently do.” The very definition of PR has become more fluid. Today’s PR professionals have become brand ambassadors, social media experts, content marketers, trend spotters – the ‘jack of all trades.’ We’ve seen many PR firms re-branding to integrated agencies, presenting a full-service offering.
The foundations of modern day PR
Despite there being more vehicles than ever before to ‘deliver’ PR, and marketing and advertising merging ever closer, there are some fundamental building blocks of public relations that remain the same. At its core, it’s still all about persuasion and influence. It’s still about crafting a compelling and persuasive narrative that sparks conversation and debate. With the rise of fake news and waning consumer trust in traditional media outlets, the communications part of PR is more important than ever. Journalists are increasingly busy people so giving them an ill-conceived story won’t work. Storytelling has been part of culture for thousands of years and in today’s ‘attention economy’ it’s an extremely important tool.
Reputation and perception management have also remained a key part of public relations today. This was reflected in a number of comments from peers. When asked, almost all sources mentioned either “image,” “reputation management” or “protecting the public’s perception.” In a world where the immediate nature of social media means a BP oil spill or Volkswagen emissions scandal could be broadcasted across the world in a matter of minutes, should we be surprised that for many, the definition is focused so much on reputation?
So, what does the future of PR look like? Digital communication has undoubtedly presented a brand-new communications ecosystem. New technologies like AI, Virtual Reality and Big Data will only further disrupt the industry. As a result, elements of its definition have changed, but some have also endured. The truth is, there is no simple answer to what ‘public relations’ means anymore. Yes, it’s about influencing stakeholders and maintaining brand perception. However, it’s now much more than that. Being prescriptive in assigning a definition is a benign exercise. The briefs we receive and client demands are constantly shifting, so do we really need to pigeonhole ourselves?
Amsterdam may be famous for its beautiful canals, charming architecture and so-called coffee shops. However next month, the city will once again become home to one of the world’s leading media, entertainment and technology conferences. IBC attracts nearly 60,000 broadcasters, content providers, analysts, film makers, production equipment manufacturers, and even government policy makers from all over the world.
We’ve been supporting clients at the show for many years so have seen the event grow into the broadcast spectacular that it is today. This year, the team is supporting VOD content delivery expert Ostmodern with a dedicated influencer campaign. With keynotes from traditional broadcasters including Channel 4, BBC Studios and ITV and disruptive internet players like Amazon and YouTube, this year’s agenda promises more innovation and variety than ever before. So, what exactly can we expect from inside the RAI next month?
Diversity, diversity, diversity
A main focus of the show this year is to address the industry’s current gender imbalance, with the aim of increasing the number of female visitors and speakers at the show. At present, women are enormously underrepresented in the global media and entertainment sector. The 2018 UCLA Hollywood Diversity report, that looks at diversity in Hollywood entertainment, found that male film directors outnumber their female counterparts by seven to one, and nearly four to one in the film writing space.
In the UK, Ofcom’s 2017 Diversity and Equal Opportunities in Television report found that women, ethnic minorities and disabled people are all under-represented in the TV industry. Women account for as little as 31% of senior management at UK broadcasters, ethnic minorities make up only 12% of employees across the same major pay-TV outlets and just 3% of employees self-report as disabled, compared to 18% of the UK population. The stats are also bleak when you look at the number of women in non-craft roles in the broadcast industry. Only 10% of manufacturers have women on their boards or senior executive teams. From production to content delivery and creation, diversity remains a problematic issue.
IBC will provide a unique opportunity to drive change through discussion, awareness and accountability. On Friday of the show, Ade Rawcliffe, ITV’s Head of Diversity will share her experiences of championing diversity at ITV with BBC’s Kate Russell – a must-attend event.
Fighting the pirates
We may not be at Black Hat or Infosec Europe, but cybersecurity will nevertheless be a key discussion point inside the RAI. High-profile cyber-attacks have plagued news headlines, growing in frequency and sophistication. In recent years, hackers have breached Netflix, Disney and HBO; content piracy and theft remain rife as we head into this year’s show. In response to this growing threat, IBC has announced it will be running a new one-day, dedicated initiative – the Cyber Security Forum – that will focus on a range of cyber-security themes. The sub event will cover how media organisations can manage cyber risk, what cyberwar means for broadcasters, current and emerging threats and ways to mitigate potential future attacks.
Whether you’re in the world of cybersecurity or not, don’t miss Channel 4’s Brian Brackenborough deliver a talk looking at the need to raise awareness and drive collaboration to ensure everyone in the industry understands the consequences of a potential cyber-attack.
More disruptive and immersive technologies than ever before
From AI and AR, to VR and voice to UHD, HDR and IP, this year’s IBC will not disappoint when it comes to exploring the next game-changing technologies.
AI was easily the most discussed technology of 2017. As the technology matures from experimentation to practical use, it will remain a key talking point in the RAI. The likes of Sony, Accenture, Nuance Communications and Amazon Web Services will all present new concepts and innovations in relation to AI and machine learning. Amongst the noise at IBC, expect to also hear conversations around new ways of creating deeper audience engagement, including VR and AR. Max Amordeluso, lead evangelist at Amazon’s Alexa in Europe, will also discuss how content creators can leverage voice to open up new opportunities in his keynote on the first day of the show.
Above are just some of the topics of discussion and debate at IBC 2018. With a packed programme including talks from key industry executives and predicted announcements from both major players and disruptive start-ups, it’ll be interesting to see how this year’s show plays out.
Security is coming to Sin City this week, as the 21st annual Black Hat conference kicks off on Saturday 4th August. Record numbers of security professionals, researchers, leaders in public and private sectors, and hackers are expected to descend on Las Vegas for the annual six-day training event and conference.
For over two decades, Black Hat has gained a world-renowned reputation for its cutting-edge agendas, briefings and technical training focused on the latest developments, trends and research in information security. Both Black Hat and DEFCON, Black Hat’s ‘edgier’ older brother which takes place on the 9th August, have reported year-on-year growth in attendance. This reflects not only a burgeoning information security sector, but also a growing appetite for dedicated events where industry peers can collaborate and share ideas.
Black Hat may be famous for its yearly hacking stunts, but the security event has never been more relevant. We’re experiencing an unrelenting cybercrime epidemic, with criminals scaling up operations targeting almost every aspect of our tech-connected lives. According to Gartner, there will be 20 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 – each a potential point of weakness and means of infiltration by a hacker.
In recent years, hackers have compromised multi-national conglomerates, stolen the personal details of millions and even impacted national elections. Predictions suggest that the annual cost of cybercrime will reach $6 trillion by 2021. The threat is growing, and it’s a borderless one, with no country immune.
Fighting this threat requires collaboration between security leaders. Events like Black Hat offer an important opportunity to bring together some of the brightest industry minds, to share ideas and information on tackling the latest and most impactful threats and unearthing new vulnerabilities that could post future problems if left unchecked.
Furthermore, with 800,000 cybersecurity jobs expected to by unfilled in the UK by 2020, Black Hat and other cybersecurity events also provide a unique meeting place for cybersecurity professionals and potential employers, and a vehicle for plugging the current skills gap. The security skills gap is now so evident, particularly in the UK, that companies such as our client SANS Institute are turning to the younger generations to encourage entry into the cybersecurity profession and build out our front line of cyber defences.
At this year’s event, researchers will explore the hacking of voting machines – quite timely, given recent media scrutiny on the topic. Other training sessions and briefings will cover software hacks, machine learning, the IoT, staff awareness strategies, social engineering, penetration testing, the cloud, DevSecOps, data breach response plans – and everything in between.
The general belief in security today is that it’s no longer a matter of if your network, device, personal account etc, will be attacked, but when. With this in mind, it’s vital that government, business, academia – and even hackers – pool their collective expertise to keep pace with malicious forces.
Cybersecurity should never stop, and neither should the sharing of insight, expertise and knowledge in this space. Navigating current issues is not an easy task; the world of cybersecurity is a complex one. Creating a collaborative and supportive community through industry events, at which experts can convene to address current threats, is and will remain a key weapon in the battle against the bad guys.
It’s a Sunday evening and I’m browsing through Instagram. My feed is full of friends’ weekend adventures, holidays, engagements, the latest recipe from Joe Wicks, and a spattering of interior design photography. Scrolling through the social site, I spot ex-Made in Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh sporting a pair of Sweaty Betty leggings. I’ve previously admired her in a similar product and within minutes I find myself at the checkout buying the same pair.
Here at Babel, we represent a number of e-commerce clients and understand how much power Instagram can wield as a tool for influencing purchase decisions. I’m certainly not alone in buying clothes and make-up based on what I see influencers wearing or using. In fact, 72% of millennials say they have purchased fashion or beauty products after having seen these on Instagram.
The days when social media was simply a way of connecting with family and friends are long gone. Instead, it’s now often used as a tool to encourage and influence consumer behaviour, whether that’s via a friend recommending a product on Twitter, seeing a personalised ad on Facebook or YouTube, or being offered a branded filter on Snapchat. With 800 million active users worldwide, Instagram is proving an increasingly lucrative means of targeting, engaging with – and selling to – consumers.
So why has the ‘gram become so popular? Its favour among millennials has been steadily growing since its launch back in 2010. Instagram’s visual nature presents pictures in a glossy and alluring format which Facebook is simply unable to replicate. As for Twitter; well, it’s great for breaking news, but it’s had less success in marketing to the fashionista or foodie.
Instagram clearly leads the way, with its innovative ‘shopping service’ having recently been expanded to the UK. This new function lets retailers tag their products in images to sell directly to users via the application, with the aim of making the social media network even more immersive for both sellers and users.
Instagram has completely transformed the marketing sector, helped shape the modern marketing strategy and given birth to a significant number of social influencers. Pure-play retailers like Missguided, In the Style and PrettyLittleThing, with their armies of millennial shoppers, have played a key role in this trend. Last year online store Boohoo nearly doubled its profits with the help of celebrity endorsements of its clothes and accessories on Instagram. Even traditional high street retailers like Topshop and River Island have jumped on the bandwagon and collaborated with fashion and beauty influencers such as Rhianna, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner, to promote various products on Instagram.
With Insta-culture showing no sign of slowing down, the photo-sharing app is too big an opportunity to ignore for those brands hoping to attract the ever-wandering eye of the millennial. But while Instagram may be the current king for retailers, it’s important companies don’t neglect other social channels. Platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn can be instrumental in driving sales, building brand awareness and boosting media relationships, meaning businesses should look to incorporate a strong and integrated social media plan into their marketing strategy.
Finally, never do social for social’s sake. Consumers have clear ideas about what they do and don’t want to see on their media feeds. Similarly, brands should have clear objectives when it comes to developing a social media strategy, with content tailored accordingly in order to reach the relevant audience and reap the maximum rewards.
Google was recently given the green light to deploy a network of high-altitude helium balloons to restore cellular and internet coverage to hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. With 90% of the region having been without connectivity for weeks, Project Loon has helped to restore much-needed wireless communication so residents can contact friends and family, and local governments can coordinate relief efforts.
But Project Loon is only one example of how technology is changing disaster relief. From social media and crowdsourcing data, to the use of next generation technology like the Internet of Things (IoT), there are an ever growing number of examples of technological advancements helping to transform how we’re able to respond to natural or humanitarian disasters.
The magnitude 7 earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010, claiming over 100,000 lives and displacing 1.5 million people from their homes, was the catalyst for the development of these technologies. One project that stands out and is still cited today as a milestone for humanitarian response is Ushahidi’s crisis crowdsourcing mapping platform. The open source platform allowed volunteers to collect information from survivors and witnesses’ SMS messages and social media posts, both in Creole and English, and inform search and rescue teams of their whereabouts in real time. A year later in 2011, Ushahidi’s platform was leveraged in a similar way following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Since then, more and more technologies are being developed in response. One example is Google’s Person Finder Tool: a web application that allows individuals to post about and search the status of those affected by a disaster. Originally used in the aftermath of Haiti, it has since been used during other major emergencies including the 2013 Boston Marathon and earthquakes in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Another scheme, spearheaded by the Red Cross and deployed in over 40 countries, is the Trilogy Emergency Relief Application (Tera). The initiative enables aid workers to identify mobile phones in the vicinity of a particular disaster area and send out mass SMS messages to disaster affected communities with information on medical help, changes to aid services or access to clean water, food or shelter. During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, the government teamed up with Airtel to send millions of text messages reminding people to go to health centres and avoid physical contact with others.
More recently, NASA created a ‘suitcase-sized’ tool known as Finder which can detect human heartbeats through 30ft of rubble and 20ft of solid concrete using a low-powered microwave signal and intelligent algorithms that detect changes in the reflecting signal. The device was initially used to find people in the 2015 Nepal earthquake but has since been used in Mexico’s major earthquake last month and recently in Puerto Rico to search for survivors of Hurricane Maria.
It’s clear technology is transforming disaster action as we know it. The extent to which these technologies can better relief efforts and save lives is yet to be fully realised, but with new tools such as AI, robots and drones still in early development it’ll be interesting to see how technology will play an even bigger role in the future.
~ “The Ethical Hacker” joins panel with Saul Williams, Sol Guy and Rosario Dawson to discuss the problem of [in]security and the impact of technology on the entertainment industry ~
~ Echemendia will hack a random audience member in a bid to highlight the security industry’s neglect towards protecting consumers ~
London, UK – 26th October 2017 – Ralph Echemendia, aka “The Ethical Hacker” today announces the panellists for his presentation at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal from the 7 -9 November 2017. Entitled ‘Hack [in] the summit’, security expert Echemendia will be joined by actress and founder of Studio189 Rosario Dawson, musician and poet Saul Williams and music and film producer Sol Guy. Together, they will discuss the impact entertainment has on technology, with Echemendia hacking a random audience member to highlight how vulnerable consumers are today to hacking.
Web Summit is the world’s largest technology conference, with Echemendia’s presentation and panel session taking place under the FullSTK strand. Echemendia will take to the stage after almost a decade working in Los Angeles as a technical supervisor on films such as “Savages” and “Snowden” as well award-winning TV Show Mr. Robot. In addition to working closely with artists, producers and directors, including the award-winning Oliver Stone, Echemendia has provided security training to some of the world’s largest organisations, such as NASA, Google and Microsoft.
It was during his time in Hollywood that Echemendia came into contact with a number of high-profile celebrities concerned about their personal cybersecurity. Those interactions will now culminate in an exclusive announcement at Web Summit – a project that Echemendia has been working on to help empower and educate the consumer, whoever they are and whatever the profession or walk of life, about the security issues they may face today.
“Most security companies today think company first – how can I protect my business from attack? They’re not thinking about the individual, all the while perpetuating an overwhelming fear of cybercrime as an insurmountable, unknowable battle that’s too hard to win,” commented Ralph Echemendia. “It’s human nature to fear what we don’t know. But if you take that fear away, then a problem can be solved.”
“At Web Summit next month, I’ll be launching a project for consumers that removes fear – a means for them to open their eyes to security,” continued Echemendia. “No one is looking out for the Average Joe, but what I’m proposing will be something for the people, not companies, and a way to make security more fun, more relevant and more effective for all.”
The ‘Hack [in] the summit’ panel takes place on Thursday 9th November at 13.45pm local time.
About Ralph Echemendia
Ralph Echemendia is a world-renowned cyber security expert, known internationally by his alter ego “The Ethical Hacker.” He uses his talents and expertise to educate various institutions as well as protect companies and celebrity names. Ralph has played a pivotal role in the research and development of various key security technologies. His portfolio of work and reputation as a leading professional across several industries has landed him the credibility to make appearances on CNN, Fox News, USA Today, and Forbes, to name a few.
We now live in a society dominated by data. We exist for many companies and public organisations as statistics, which are used to shape services and improve engagement with us. The rise of fake news and our diminishing trust in the media have made many of us question news and PR stories if they are not based upon cold, hard facts.
So what of creativity, which has long underpinned PR content output and influenced the way companies and the media communicate with target audiences? Are we vilifying creativity and placing data too high up the agenda?
These issues were explored at a Cision Gorkana event I attended last week. Opening the discussion was Ruth Yearly, Insight and Strategy Director at Ketchum. Insight, according to Yearly, is based on something we know and are aware of, a common sense truth which is gathered and developed over time. She gave the analogy of a honey bee, with experiences and insights sticking to us like pollen as we explore and experience the world’s garden.
Yet basing campaigns and communications solely on insight seems to have gone out of fashion, with PR creatives now having to support messaging and ideas with extensive research and data. In an era of ‘post-truth’, many agencies and their clients are understandably nervous of anything they can’t be 100% certain of, or which they cannot substantiate with concrete proof or stats.
Championing the importance of data was Paul Hender, Head of Insight at Cision. Hender argued that using data will lead to better decision-making in the PR and comms world, and quoted mathematical physicist and engineer Lord Kelvin; “To measure is to know. If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”
Kelvin was born in 1824, but his statement is still extremely relevant today. Whilst our economy 20 years ago was dominated by the top companies in fields like oil and electricity, the landscape is now headed by technology giants. A core part of these businesses is their constant gathering and measuring of data to improve communications and services.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the nature of audience and readerships has also changed significantly over the past two decades. The growth of digital platforms and social media as sources of news and communications has fragmented the media environment, dividing audiences into silos which must be targeted and engaged in an ever-more personalised manner. And it’s here that data comes in.
According to Hender, 85% of ad spend now goes to Facebook and Google, as these platforms can deliver data on how to reach a target audience, and subsequently measure their reactions. An interesting example that he used to show the importance of data for comms was Microsoft and the levels of engagement the company was seeing from different media. Typically you’d imagine high engagement levels would stem from tech media, however, the data showed high coverage but low engagement and higher engagement actually came from other media, so the PR team were able to alter their strategy accordingly.
The conclusion from last week’s event, and one that I myself also agree with, is that a balance must be achieved between the two. Raw data is not enough on its own – either as the basis of a PR campaign or as a means of informing communications – and must be combined with insight and creativity. A straightforward, quick-fix approach to a data-heavy press release, for example, would be to use language which reminds the audience that respondents from a survey are human and not just numbers on a spreadsheet: use ‘these people’ rather than ‘this sample’, Hender suggested.
Unifying data and creativity has delivered some great PR campaigns from the likes of Spotify, Kleenex and Hemnet. Any and all PR agencies and organisations should remember that using data alone, without insight, will always be less engaging and interesting. The two can co-exist, and in order to effectively communicate and make sure the right message is heard by the right audience, data should always be approached and delivered creatively.
Yesterday marked the start of the 25th DEF CON conference – one of the largest hacker conventions, held annually in Las Vegas. Over the next three days, hackers and cybersecurity experts from around the globe will converge on the infamous Sin City for ‘the Olympics of hacking.’ Whilst some attendees may use their skill to commit crime, many are ‘white hat’ or ethical hackers.
When my sister first told me she knew of someone studying Ethical Hacking at university a few years ago, I thought she was pulling my leg. Admittedly, at the time, the term ‘hacker’ conjured images of a hoody-wearing geeky teenager who spends most of the time in his darkened bedroom, tapping into MI5 systems or creating malware to wreak havoc in our digital lives.
But this outdated image has changed – not just for me but for the wider industry. In recent years we’ve seen the rise of ‘white hat’ hackers: security professionals who hack for good to improve cybersecurity, instead of compromising it like their ‘black hat’ counterparts. Their playground is conventions and hackathons like DEF CON and others such as BlackHat, SchmooCon, and AngelHack – where the hacker community gather to compete, share knowledge and meet like-minded people. Even the US and Indian governments, as well as consumer-facing companies such as Mastercard and British Airways have recently held hackathons.
The fact that ethical hacking is an increasingly in-demand profession, and the growing popularity of events like DEF CON, comes as no surprise when you consider the countless security breaches that have hit our headlines and news feeds in recent years. The recent WannaCry ransomware attack, which affected over 250,000 systems in 150 countries around the world, is one only example. Global financial losses from the hack are estimated to swell beyond a staggering $4 billon. However, this is only the tip of the security iceberg. By 2021, estimates predict the price of cybercrime will reach £4.9 trillion per year. But with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its adoption by critical industries such as automotive, healthcare and agriculture, cyber-attacks could have a much more devastating effect on human life.
To fight these future threats, companies are turning to white hat hackers like Jamie Woodruff, famous for hacking Kim Kardashian, to get into the minds of hackers and use similar tactics and tools to penetrate company defences, and expose potential security holes. Even social giant Facebook now offers rewards for ethical hackers who find flaws in their systems.
So what does the future hold for ‘white hat’ hackers? In the US alone, as of 2016, the ethical hacking industry was already worth more than $4 billion. More and more businesses and consumers are starting to realise that data is what makes the world go round. As such, we can expect the demand for the next generation skills needed to protect individuals and companies against data breaches will skyrocket. With no one wanting to be caught out, investment will need to be made, and this may well fall in the remit of the new breed of cybersecurity professionals and their white hats.
I recently attended the PRCA’s Future of the Media Landscape event in Westminster. The morning session featured experts from the PR and press industries who discussed the current state of the media industry, the impact of fake news and how the landscape will shift in the coming years.
It’s no secret that the media industry is changing. The golden days when newspapers reigned are long gone and the decline of print journalism has been a widely debated topic. This has been brought about by the rapid rise of digital, as more and more people turn to online services for news and content. According to David Cracknell, former Political Editor at The Sunday Times and one of the keynote speakers at the event, the internet is now ahead of radio and newspapers and is the second most popular medium for news after TV.
One subject which I was not surprised to see on the agenda was fake news. The majority of the experts at the event, from press regulators to ex-tabloid editors and PR professionals, agreed that fake news is not a new concept. However, the lines between what is real and what is not are now being blurred, resulting in confusion around genuine stories and those that are either satirical, click-bait or completely fabricated.
The discussion around fake news raised an issue that for me was the overarching theme of the event – trust. Factors including the News of the World phone hacking scandal, Brexit propaganda and other questionable actions by media companies have seen public trust in traditional media fall to an all-time low. People are instead looking to search engines and social platforms rather than professional media as purveyors of truth. Minna Salami, writer and blogger, explained that this has been fuelled by a general anti-establishment sentiment among the public against the press as well as the government and businesses.
Another prevalent theme was the ‘rewriting’ of the role of the journalist. Look back a decade and being a journalist meant investigating a story and writing editorial content that was published or broadcast to readers, listeners or viewers. The internet and social media have now changed the world of journalism. Falling audience numbers and revenues mean cuts to journalist jobs in the UK, upping the workload of those that are weathering the storm. Journalists are now under significant pressure to be the first to break stories, keeping pace with social media and the internet, whilst ensuring they are producing content that is trustworthy and factually correct.
What does this mean for the world of public relations? And how can PR professionals adapt in an era of fake news and churnalism? For starters, we need to understand that journalists have less time and resources than ever before. Building strong relationships and getting to know each journalist’s individual needs, specific patch and deadlines is vital.
As PRs, we have a part to play in making sure the stories we provide to journalists are robust, accurate and relevant. It’s all about creating a package that is easily accessible to them and which includes supporting content such as solid stats from a reputable source, videos, images and case studies to create a well-rounded and complete story.
The media landscape is certainly evolving and with it come changes to the world of PR. Yet one thing remains the same, and was a key takeaway from the PRCA event: the PR and media industries must collaborate and cooperate, not only to fight the war against fake news, but to ensure traditional journalistic values are upheld in the digital revolution.