Tell a better story

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

So, I’ve been doing this blogging thing for about nine months now. Some of you have noticed, and I appreciate the RSS subscriptions and comments that you’ve thrown my way; some of you have yet to become daily readers, but I’m sure you’ll find your way to the Web site soon and become hopelessly addicted.

Regardless of readership, it’s been an instructive experience for me. See, blogging entails a lot of Web surfing. There’s really no point in posting stuff to a blog unless you’re referencing another story on the Web, or pointing to City Council meeting minutes or a YouTube film. Otherwise, it’s just essay writing, and that’s what editorials are for, right? And in the course of all this Web surfing, I find myself googling “security” a lot, and weeding through what I find, especially during a slow news week when manufacturers are stubbornly refusing to buy each other.

There’s gobs of stuff on homeland security and IT security and how there’s no security in Iraq or Afghanistan and how we might as well kiss Social Security goodbye, but I can generally ignore all of that (and good googling keeps them out of the results, anyway), spending most of my time on stories about how video cameras caught yet another criminal, or a security guard shot someone in the line of duty or fell asleep.

Almost everything I find is from the mainstream press, largely local dailies with print runs of probably not more than 20,000 or so, and it’s given me a pretty good idea of how the general population experiences the industry in which all of us work every day.

First of all, when a security company succeeds, you never know which one it is. I’ve read countless stories about how the police caught a criminal after receiving a call from “the security company.”

Which one? Who knows? Who cares? It’s the police that did the work, right? But when a security company screws up, especially if a guard shoots someone, you know exactly which company it was.

Why is that?

Largely, it’s because journalists are lazy. I know. Many of my friends are journalists, but I don’t hold that against them. They are fed the story by the police department, generally, and if the police department doesn’t specify the security company, the journalist doesn’t bother to ask or find out who called in the alarm. What does it matter? All security companies are alike, right?

Yet this kind of story is the ultimate validation many of you are looking for. If one business owner avoided a loss thanks to a monitoring firm, maybe another local business owner will sign up with that same firm. It’s simple local sales strategy. It’s why you guys join the Rotary.

I’ve also found that journalists are always looking for “experts” to interview. Shouldn’t you be the local security expert? My blog links with Mike Jagger’s. As the head of Provident Security in Vancouver, he’s been interviewed hundreds of times by the local press simply because he makes himself available (and because people google “security expert Vancouver” and his blog comes up). Did you read about that museum heist at the University of British Columbia? Basically, thieves made off with millions in historical art work because the security guards at the university museum were fooled by the old don’t-mind-the-alarms, we’re-working-on-the-system trick. Yep, guards ignored silent and audible alarms while thieves worked right under their noses.

Jagger was all over it on his blog, and quickly all over the media. I can’t imagine that’s bad for business.

So, I know you’re busy, but you’ve really got to get a blog. Actually, I’m kidding. A blog might get you noticed by the local press, but so would a phone call to your local paper. Why don’t you offer to write a recurring column on keeping your family safe from criminals? Papers are cheap and losing money to the Internet left and right. They love free content. Or, after a major event happens nationally, call your local paper and offer to provide the local perspective. Journalists love to “bring a story home” for their readers.

It wouldn’t hurt you to put out a press release from time to time, either. Maybe you’re not a writer, but don’t you have a kid in high school that needs something to do? Pay her to write about the 500 break-ins you prevented last year, or the way you’ve cut false alarms with the help of the police department by almost 50 percent in the last three years (I’ve read about 100 versions of that story over the past year), and email it to your local rag. They’ll print it.

I know many of you keep your business operations close to the vest because security is often equated with secretiveness, but security is also about tying a community together and there’s no better way to grow a local business than integrating that business into the fabric of the way people in town form opinions.

Who do they go to for security questions? You.