What’s public relations and why is it so important for security?

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Friday, November 15, 2019

When talking about marketing in the security industry, public relations (PR) is probably the least understood tool in the box—and this is to the industry’s detriment. Not only is good PR key to managing your company’s reputation, but it is also one of the most effective ways to build relationships with business partners, increase sales and garner a robust customer base. 

Most security and technology executives refer to PR simply as “free advertising.” The reality is, however, it isn’t advertising, and it isn’t free. While there isn’t a cost to securing media coverage—the time, knowledge and skill required to obtain it is certainly not free. Therefore, to be successful in PR, you must have a clear understanding of what PR is, as well as what it is not.

Let’s explore some common misconceptions.

Debunking myths about PR

PR is not just spin. PR is often mistaken for simple propaganda, wherein an interpretation of an event is used to sway an audience toward a specific opinion. Although there are some PR professionals who use this method, it is not the industry standard. Both ethical and effective PR disseminates the truth—this is a fundamental best practice. 

PR is not just social media. You’d be surprised how many times I tell people that I do PR and hear, in response, “So, you do social media?” Although social media can contribute to a PR or marketing campaign, the two are not interchangeable. The umbrella of PR is broad and multi-faceted. 

PR is not just media relations. Like social, media relations, which involves building relationships and seeking interviews as well as editorial opportunities, is just one facet of PR. Executives should not spend most of their day emailing and making calls to reporters. Good PR must incorporate other awareness tactics—such as thought leadership initiatives, speaking engagements and awards—in order to be successful.

PR is not just sending press releases. Some believe that if they send out a press release that generates “Google Alerts,” they’re running a successful PR campaign. But, it’s not that simple. News releases picked up by outlets that subscribe to platforms like PR Newswire do not guarantee awareness among key customers. Many times, news releases never reach their intended audience. Effective PR must involve a combination of efforts, including strategic placement of content, which isn’t (and shouldn’t be) limited to press releases.

Now that we’ve dispelled some misconceptions about PR, let’s talk about what it actually is.

The true nature of PR

The basis of PR involves utilizing industry influencers to communicate your message and impact your audience. Security influencers can be industry associations, investors, consultants, integrators, end customers—and even the print and digital media.

According to Public Relations News, “Public relations is the management function which evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a program of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.”

PR is earned media. An experienced publicist or PR agency works to earn the favorable opinions of influencers organically. The goal is for the security thought leader—often a journalist—to view the client as “newsworthy.” That reputation, however, is something earned, not bought. The goal is to have an idea worth talking about, a story worth telling among key industry stakeholders.

PR is real news. Traditional PR campaigns engage in media relations to secure news placements in print, web, television and/or radio outlets. This is often achieved by pitching stories to subject matter experts or reporters. Additionally, disseminating press releases, media advisories and other materials to secure interviews are also common PR tactics. 

PR is evolving. PR, however, has moved well beyond news coverage. Today, security companies are using PR to influence distributors, integrators, brand ambassadors, industry associations and end users, with the goal that these efforts will lead to the purchase of their solution, software or service. Therefore, as the security industry grows, so does the breadth of PR strategies.

Call to action

How can you know if your marketing could benefit from PR? Below are some questions to consider:

  1. Do you have a strong product, but weak sales? 
  2. Does your solution offer the same features at a more competitive price than industry giants, yet you only hear about your competitor in the news?
  3. Are you an industry veteran who still gets asked, “What do you do again?” at industry events and trade shows?
  4. Would increasing awareness about a product feature eliminate your customer’s barrier to entry?

Kevin Friedman is the president of Maize Marketing, Inc., a full-service agency that creates sustainable marketing solutions for companies in the security and technology industries. Bringing more than 20 years of creative strategy, branding and storytelling experience to the team, Kevin is known as a highly innovative marketer who can always be trusted to come up with a new approach. Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from San Diego State University.