What do editors want from cybersecurity PRs?
If you want to get more out of your cybersecurity PR and news stories, this article will tell you how. We interviewed three industry journalists to find out what they valued most and least from cybersecurity press releases.
Here’s what Tom Allen, Special Projects Editor at Computing, V3, and The Inquirer, Tony Morbin, Editor-in-Chief of SC Magazine and Dan Raywood, Contributing Editor of Infosecurity Magazine had to say.
1. What makes a good security story?
The rules for a good security story are simple according to Dan at Infosecurity Magazine: “Something that engages the reader, seeks to tell a story and is well written and researched.”
Tony at SC magazine told us that: “When choosing which story to follow up, we try to pick the one that will have the biggest impact on the reader in terms of doing their job better, helping their company or their career.” He went on to say: “Our audience targets cyber security professionals, so we are not looking for advice to consumers.” Tony also looks for new, insightful, attributable comment. “We want quotable quotes, i.e. not what everyone else has already said” and by attributable, he means the full name and job title of the person being quoted.
Tom at Computing says: “The most interesting stories, aside from those about something going wrong, are always the ones that involve a new use of technology, whether it’s a brand-new approach or an innovative use of existing systems.” He finds it frustrating when people don’t explain properly why a certain technology, such as AI, has been used or what is important about it and what benefit it will bring to security that other solutions don’t.
In most instances, the media want board level contributors – ideally not a sales or marketing executive who can make readers feel that they are being sold to. This is because editorial is about sharing information and knowledge, while provoking discussion and debate.
At ec-pr, our rule of thumb is that a story needs to introduce something new with a clearly articulated benefit and it should only be sent to press with an expressed interest in the subject matter. Stories should always be well-researched and written in a way that is engaging to the reader.
2. Why do some ‘great’ stories sometimes fail to be published?
Over the past 20+ years, we have never once failed to get press coverage for a story. Our process for researching, writing and securing approvals is robust – this is rooted in deep professional respect for both our clients and our press contacts. However, Tom tells us that some great-sounding stories arrive in his inbox incomplete and even when he asks for further details, he gets no response or an unusable one. He firmly believes that where subject knowledge is concerned “a little really does go a long way – any journalist will respect their PR contact more if they can discuss a press release with them instead of hearing the dreaded words, “Let me get back to you on that.”
Tom also says that slow response times can kill a story.
“Occasionally, answers to my questions come back within an hour; at other times I’ve waited days, by which time the story is old news. There’s often a reason for it, but journalists need to be informed if there’s a significant delay so that we can find another source.”
3. What could PR people do more of to help you produce interesting content?
An editorial campaign should include a variety of content types including news, thought leadership, comment, blogs and case studies. Case studies are particularly prized by the media and as such, are often the hardest to secure in any depth.
Tony commented that, in addition to providing the basics (who, what, why, when, where and how), providing detailed narrative on why something is important will help a story to stand out, especially if your story is one of several on the subject. He also points out that a good picture can sell a story.
Dan makes an interesting point about the number of journalists being such that they are usually busy with the work they need to, so following up on all of the other opportunities offered to them is just not possible.
So, our take on this is that partially formed, poorly thought-out ideas are simply not going to get a look in.
4. What are the most common mistakes people make when approaching you?
Over the years, we have learnt that telephoning journalists to ask if they’ve received a press release is a waste of everyone’s time, but Tom’s experience surprised even us. He told us that PRs phone him
“Just to read off the first paragraph from a press release and then ask if they can send the PR to me: instant turn off. Don’t do it.”
Being accurate is critical to the credibility of journalism. Journalists check their stories and expect press releases to be accurate in the information they share, so Tony’s confession is understandable: “We make mistakes, but we get really annoyed when PRs make the mistakes for us, then send us a correction, asking us to change something they previously sent.”
Tony gives a valuable heads-up: “A big mistake is not putting the most important/interesting thing at the front. E.g. “Everyone at MYbank has had £100 stolen from them”, rather than, “New research has been published by leading global cyber security company LockupmyData, conducted by the highly regarded Whatsitallabout research company as a result of face to face interviews with 6,000 cyber security professionals last year. The findings show that Lockupmydata is rated reliable by 49 percent of respondents”… then mention the £100 three paras later… We do want all those other details, but we want to know why we should be interested.”
Dan’s ‘common mistake’ is more fundamental and perhaps less forgivable
“usually not knowing what we actually cover or what we and our audience look for.”
My take out from these conversations is that cybersecurity journalists remain busy, inquisitive and professional people. They need fully formed, well written and engaging material combined with informed and responsive communication. If you are tardy in dealing with the press you can expect your media profile to languish, but treat journalists with the same professional respect as you would any other business colleague and you’ll reap some impressive rewards.
This blog was first published on LinkedIn.