Post-Lilly-heist PR and damage control

 - 
03/22/2010
I was talking with my editor Sam the other day and we were trying to decide how we could take the unfortunate loss at Eli Lilly and use the incident as the spring board for a valuable discussion on how the industry should handle such matters. This is certainly not the first time a loss has occurred and nor will it be the last. We wanted to try and produce something beneficial to SSN's readers. We came to the realization that really the Eli Lilly heist was an unfortunate event that could have happened to anyone. The real point is not who did or didn't do what--Did the security system fail? Were the criminals just brilliant and Ocean's Eleven-good? Did someone at the monitoring company drop the ball? Was it an inside job (which is actually the way opinion online seems to be trending now)?--but now that the loss has occurred, what can or should the industry do to address apprehension, anxiety and consumer doubt? Regardless of what happened, does someone in the industry have an obligation to address the end users out there who may be asking "What good is my security system if it can be circumvented? I'm interested in any comments readers have. I've spoken with one industry association leader so far who pointed out that until all the facts are known, it may be best to remain silent. This leader also pointed out the heist is an opportunity for security companies to go to their clients and review the protection that's in place. Is it enough? We also discussed the recent Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice study for AIREF, a comprehensive study of five years of statistics by researchers at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice (SCJ) in Newark that found that residential burglar alarm systems deter crime. The executive summary of that study is a good place to start in reassuring end users. The executive summary spells it all out. My real question, though is, should someone film a PSA to air right after one of those Broadview adds that SNL just spoofed and let the public know, "Hey, all kidding aside, and despite this latest unfortunate incident, security is still valuable!"? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Call me at 207-846-0600 extension 254 or drop me an email. Or just post a comment on this blog.

Comments

This very probably is "an opportunity for security companies to go to their clients and review the protection that’s in place", however, I think that's unlikely to happen just out of (or on the way back into) recession. Dealers are fearful of cancellatuions at the moment and are just happy to keep subscribers on their books - underprotected or not. A phone call to a Customer is an opportunity for them to ask awkward questions which may lead to cancellation.

A perhaps valid point, Steve.

In my opinion, the best way to demonstrate the value that security can offer is to demonstrate it… by designing systems that work and telling clients the truth about how the whole alarm process works. Unfortunately, the fact is that when most alarms trip, nothing happens. Nobody responds and nobody takes it seriously. Every alarm is considered false until proven otherwise. As an industry, we are training people to consider our ‘service’ a nuisance rather than an important part of their home/business security plan.
Sadly, the value that most alarms offer is to generate an income stream for the alarm company… not to actually increase the level of security for the client. The fact is, our industry is largely guilty of selling an incomplete service. 
The reason that SNL (& most people who have seen the ads) make fun of the Broadview ads is because they are despicable. They’re one of the worst examples of fear mongering and do a disservice to our entire industry. Putting a PSA on wouldn’t accomplish anything. So long as our industry continues to pump out crap like that, we all get tarnished. 
That being said, there is a lot of opportunity for security firms who take their service seriously… but until the message that the mass-market is being sent changes, trying to counter balance things by spending money on advertising won’t make a difference.
The way the security industry gets some respect is when average consumers feel so strongly about the value that they are getting from their alarm company that they tell their friends and neighbours about it. Until then, companies that need to rely on misleading advertising and choose to use fear mongering to trick people into signing a monitoring contract will only serve to ensure that we get mocked (and deservedly so) by SNL et al.

Well put, Mike. I was actually thinking yesterday on one of the other comments about how security companies probably won't use this as an opportunity to approach clients and say "are we doing enough" because of the awkward questions end users might ask... It DOES seem probably that most everyone's going to just keep their heads down. That doesn't seem like a workable answer to me... I mean, if one can't sit down with a client and look them in the eye and say, "Here's the value I provide for you," then there's something wrong. Is that where the security industry is at? Are most security companies happier keeping their heads down and hoping that end users are too lazy to ask questions and challenge the value being provided?

Should there be some sort of industry governing body that oversees the type of advertising that's allowed, that is in charge of the public image of the security industry?

Thanks for chiming in Mike.

Mike is right - the industry seems to lack transparency. A governing body would improve that situation, but you have to be careful just how much power such an organisation should be allowed. I know for sure that the governing body in the UK do not allow door knocking or false advertising. The difference is, they have the power to lay down the law as they have the full support of every police department in the country. If an approved company steps out of line, their entire customer base do not receive a police response for a full 12 weeks!

Thank you, Steve. Interesting info about the industry in the UK. Non-response for 12 weeks. Yikes.

[...] Maine—The Eli Lilly drug warehouse robbery was the biggest drug heist in history, a loss of $75 million in prescription antidepressants and [...]

[...] warehouse heist, my editor Sam and I began talking about the mainstream media coverage we saw. Most stories I read mentioned the fact that there was security in place at that warehouse. Our thought was that people [...]