Defence against the dark FUD – intelligent comms for the security industry
In the fictional realm of Harry Potter, lycanthrope Professor Lupin taught his budding wizards and witches the subject of ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts.’ In these classes, students were taught how to defend themselves against all manner of nefarious and insidious jinxes and curses. While PR professionals definitely don’t possess wands, can’t banish away deadlines or halt time on demand, there is an important subject we should be teaching clients working within the security industry – something I like to call ‘Defence Against the Dark FUD.’
What is FUD, I hear you ask? FUD stands for the fear, uncertainty and doubt that has fuelled the cybersecurity industry for years. In a recent article for Computer Weekly, Tom Kranz of Cyber Lab explained how the sector is ‘held hostage’ by FUD. Security vendors (not all of them, I hasten to add) often use fear tactics and panic to sell the solutions they want their customers to use, rather than the products that will help them to tackle the real issues facing their businesses. It’s a sentiment shared and echoed by many of the security companies I speak to regularly.
Every day, we see column inch after column inch of our national newspapers and global online news outlets filling up with reports on breach this and hack that, and companies are left paralyzed in fear of becoming the next target of opportunistic hackers. And in large part, it works, because companies are now aware that a breach or hack is a matter of if, rather than when. Tension and conflict sell newspapers. But there’s a big difference between fanning the flames of this FUD, and responsibly informing stakeholders – customers, prospects, the general public – of the stark reality of the industry when you’re a company operating in this space.
We work with a number of security companies at Babel, and part of our counsel to those companies is to be one of the responsible ones. Rather than play the FUD game, we encourage smart, intelligent commentary from our clients’ spokespeople that can either further an industry debate, or provide a new perspective, rather than create more panic or uncertainty in the media.
With that in mind, and in keeping with the witchy theme of this piece, here are our top three tonics for ‘defending against the dark FUD’ and providing intelligent communications within the security industry:
- Be selective: Just because everyone and his dog is commenting on that hack or breach, it doesn’t mean you have to as well. Sometimes it’s better to be less available and more considered with what you want to discuss externally to customers, stakeholders and the public, rather than be seen to be commenting on every and all issue. This latter approach can dilute your value and your core messages. What are the themes that really matter to your customers and business? Own and stick to those where possible.
- Add to the debate: Journalists don’t like ‘me-too’ companies, and it actually doesn’t make for good reading when every company in the industry is saying the same thing. So, as an extension of the ‘be selective’ rule, if you’re not adding to or furthering the debate, what are you saying that others in the industry aren’t? If you’re repeating messages that your competitors are vocal about, it’s time to refresh your messaging and opinions. Be bold and unique.
- Dip into your data (or commission some): It’s a drum we beat regularly, but it’s nevertheless still a valid point. Journalists love data. Customers love data. Why? It’s objective and it speaks volumes about trends and patterns impacting your sector. It backs up your opinions and it’s much more compelling. Companies are often sat on a wealth of data without realising that it could be used for PR and marketing purposes. Asking the right questions internally can help you unearth this data, but commissioning your own survey – working with a research house or analyst firm – can be useful in generating new proof points you might not have access to.
Chasing the FUD as part of a communications strategy is risky business, and it could be the cruciatus curse to your credibility if not managed correctly. If you’d like to hear more about how Babel works with security companies to create meaningful, responsible and impactful communication strategies that are less about FUD, then why not get in touch?
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