Some reader feedback on our poll today (i.e. Sam gets taken down a peg)

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05/03/2010

I think it's sometimes instructive to put my email conversations with readers out into the public because they may be conversations that many of you would like to have with me, but don't have the time or inclination to email me directly. So, here's a back and forth that occurred today after we pushed out our June poll question. I think it's instructive of how things work around here and maybe pushes forward some ideas we've been bouncing around the office about what we see as a major perception problem on the part of the security industry (and I do mean industry as a whole, a distinction you'll see is more important as you read down). Feel free to let me know your thoughts in similar fashion any time, either via a comment here on the blog or by emailing me directly at editor@securitysystemsnews.com. Emails start:

Sam, I wanted to take a moment to share my opinion regarding a recent email I received from SSN. Specifically the SSN News Poll “Whose job is it to manage public perception of the security industry?” I feel that the grab on this article was at best misleading, and at worse a gross mischaracterization of the point of the NYT article. I’m not referring to the article itself, but SSN’s play on the article. I read the article thoroughly. It focuses entirely on one segment of the security industry, residential, and doesn’t really touch commercial/retail security in the slightest, never mind enterprise security applications, transportation, education or critical infrastructure verticals. What it really addresses is a long known side effect of residential security; specifically the use of sometimes inferior equipment and shoddy monitoring business practices to produce an inferior solution. Since many of the businesses hawking residential security broker to sub-contractors, and those companies are compensated not on continuing service, but on speed and number of installs, it stands to reason the end-result would be less than optimal. The New York Times doesn’t even pretend that this is a snapshot of the entire security industry, and although they are critical of some aspects, they levy that criticism equally at law-enforcement for charging for repeat visits, as well as specific alarm service providers for less-than-perfect service. In the end, they conclude that residential security systems and services are not without merit and that the quality of the service is what homeowners should be most tuned in with. The fact that SSN mischaracterized this story as critical of the entire security industry is clear journalistic sensationalism, but even that wasn’t the end of it. SSN went a step further and used the article as a jumping point to poll industry folks as to a single spokesperson for the industry were needed. My opinion in that poll aside, this was an incredibly weak article by which to spearhead such a poll. This is nothing against you personally, but I wanted to share my opinion on this with you not only as a member of the security industry, but as a marketing professional with press and press relations experience. Take care and……. Kindest Regards, Jason Spielfogel Director of Product Management, IP Cameras Verint Video Intelligence Solutions

And here's my response:

Hey Jason, Thanks for the feedback. It's always appreciated and I never take it personally. That's my job. Did you follow the link to Dan's blog and read that? It's right here - http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/blogsm/?p=2561 - and was in the poll email and we intended for that to provide a lot of the nuance that you didn't find in the brief email we sent out. Maybe we should have made that more clear. You're right that the first sentence of the email should have read "worth of the RESIDENTIAL security industry." That was just lazy writing and poor editing on my part. However, as the blog outlines, we think the Eli Lilly heist was particularly bad press, and we've written a couple of times about the black eye provided to the industry by the massive failure of the secure border initiative, for example. This blog I posted about SBInet has been read more than 5,000 times. Clearly, it's an issue our readers care about: http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/blogs/?p=2792 We were going to do the poll anyway, actually, and linked to the Times article because it had just come out and people respond to polls more when there's a topical hook. But it doesn't come out of left field. This "who speaks for the industry" theme is something we've been reporting on a lot and we assumed our frequent readers would have taken this as part of a continuum of our coverage. See this story from a couple weeks back: http://www.securitysystemsnews.com/?p=article&id=ss201004MAQWw5 So, while I agree that the New York Times article does not call into question the usefulness of the security industry as a whole, the mass media have been in general questioning whether security systems have value, and I don't think it's out of bounds on our part at all to question the public handling of the industry's reputation as a whole with our poll. Do you think the general public values and is impressed by the security industry as a whole? I certainly don't. Cheers, Sam L. Samuel Pfeifle Executive Editor, Security Systems News and Security Director News Programmer, TechSec Solutions

And I'll let Jason have the last word on this:

Sam, I’ll check out the blog, but right now I’m very pressed for the cycles to check out ever security blog that’s out there (and I subscribe to quite a few). I agree that there have been an above average amount of black eyes to the security industry as of late (just in Southern California, two ATM machines were heisted in the last week, one of which contained checks my wife had recently deposited, so we felt the sting directly). I also agree that the bad stories don’t end with the residential vertical, though that’s certainly where the proliferation of those types of stories come from. So, on my part, the myopia of seeing this piece in a vacuum as opposed to big-picture placing it within a scope of continuing coverage is certainly true, but shouldn’t you always assume that’s the case (unless you indicate otherwise and provide links?) My other objection is probably just professional opinion. I don’t see the need for a single information point for the security industry. Perhaps it’s just my journalistic credentials….I’d rather talk to individual companies and customers than listen to the stamped and signed spin coming from an industry spokesperson. Much like when I hear statements from the Oil industry, Retail industry, Banking industry….etc, in my opinion all of that is 90% spin and 10% information, and that’s being generous. I tend to write harsh on the first pass then move toward the middle from there. So to the degree my original email was harshly criticizing SSN I apologize, and thank you for clearing up the matter for me.

No apology was necessary, of course. I like it when people call me to the carpet - makes me a better writer. And his point about assuming people are seeing our stuff for the first time and don't understand the continuum is a really good one. Because we live this news cycle every day, we assume people have read everything we've put out there, but that's obviously not true. We need to provide more context more often. That's a good lesson to have learned today.

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