A Case Study on How Even Companies with Sensitive Information Can Secure Broadcast Opportunities
When your client is in the business of successfully analyzing more than 2,500 cyber-security breaches, granting an on-site broadcast media interview is rare, especially due to the sensitive nature of malware attacks and breach information under investigation.
Recently, one of our top security clients, a wholly-owned subsidiary of a multi-billion dollar company, broke this trend and successfully participated in a broadcast interview with Bloomberg TV. In the following Q&A, Allison Kreider (@psu_PRoud) interviewed Anastasia Efstratios (@anastasia5873), the PR lead who managed this opportunity, to discuss some key takeaways including how to scope and appropriately navigate a winning interview that not only met and exceeded the clients’ needs, but also, attracted viewers for the broadcaster.
AK: How did the interview come about?
AE: LPP worked with the client to plan and execute a tour of its brand new, state-of-the-art digital forensics lab. The team worked with the client to plan the event, create a run-of-play, and more importantly, develop the key messages to be communicated. We then issued a release unveiling the opening of the new lab and invited local security media to meet the lab’s director, see a demo of the work being done including simulating simulation of a Shamoon-style attack, and to hear a nationally recognized cyber law attorney and practice leader speak on cyber issues.
This effort attracted the attention of Bloomberg TV, who could not make the event, but reached out to us to see the facility and demo. The lab also fit nicely with a feature Bloomberg TV was planning around the growth of cyber-security in the region.
AK: Given the sensitive nature of the company breach information analyzed at the lab, how were you able to get this through approvals?
AE: Having just come off a very successful lab tour, we had a good idea of our “safe zones.” We knew we could repurpose some of the content and key messages developed for the lab tour. We also knew what Bloomberg TV was interested in covering, which was the local market perspective so we knew we could add that context to give Bloomberg custom content.
We also asked a lot of scoping questions upfront to really understand what leverage we had, if any. For example, we asked what other facilities had been contacted, what their response was, what specific questions would be asked, and so on. While Bloomberg did not reveal all the specifics we asked for, we were able to make several educated assumptions – namely, we determined that while feelers were out to competitors, it was unlikely that other vendors would participate, so we were the front-runner to be spotlighted in the segment.
With this context, we devised a run-of-play we felt would be amenable to all sides. The run-of-play laid out a tight, but informative and visually interesting 45-minute visit including an agenda-setting interview with the CEO, as well as two 10-minute demos – one focused on behavioral analysis of the Malware and one focused on forensics and information recovery.
We knew this game plan would allow us to communicate our key messages without allowing for too much time to get into “unsafe” territory.
AK: What specific terms did you negotiate with Bloomberg to ensure the client’s comfort level?
AE: We made sure Bloomberg TV agreed to the proposed agenda and run-of-play. These documents mapped out the specifics from the time of the camera crew’s arrival to their departure, including where filming would be allowed and where it wouldn’t. We knew once on-site, there may be deviations from the plan, but we wanted to set strict expectations upfront. It’s always easier to be more lenient than it is to rein someone in! Ultimately, our conversations and collaboration set the tone and expectations for what was within the scope of the interview and what wasn’t, which took the element of pure surprise off the table.
AK: How did you prepare the client for this opportunity?
AE: We essentially over-prepared to meet the needs of the corporate team, who required a comprehensive plan to analyze the opportunity and be comfortable with the messaging. Specifically, we worked with the client to create – a Key Messages document that included talking points and anticipated Q&A, we scripted both demos, developed the run-of-play and prepared a detailed briefing sheet on the Bloomberg TV correspondent. One of the challenges we had was to describe the work of the forensics team in “plain English” for a general audience. Our spokesperson did a fantastic job of this describing the work similar to police work used in traditional criminal investigations. The prep paid off in droves as the interview turned out extremely well. That’s a much better feeling than watching the interview and wishing you had done more the next morning.
AK: What advice would you have for other clients who are nervous about broadcast interviews with sensitive subject matter?
AE: It boils down to these points:
- Know your goal. The reason we were able to make this work is we knew the client and the corporate team ultimately wanted to showcase the good work of the lab for which we already had approved content and demo material that was visually interesting. The rest was all about expectation-setting and putting our key needs and assurances on the table for Bloomberg to react to.
- Look into what’s possible. When you know your goal, you can try to establish safe zones, which we did. And, we didn’t let the past dictate the future. While broadcast had historically been a closed door, that didn’t stop us from having the conversation to determine next steps. We opted to think outside the box and ask ourselves, “Could we do this in such a way that benefits our client and also makes a good story?” If the answer is maybe, then it is worth finding out if you have any leverage and you can establish safe zones.
- Be flexible, within reason. We stayed in close contact with the reporter and were honest upfront about what may and may not work. The correspondent in this case knew we were advocating for a good story.
- Prepare. Preparation and expectation-setting is critical. It’s a lot easier to establish strict guidelines upfront that can bend later, than it is to rein in a camera crew roaming about your facility. That’s not something you want to “Monday morning quarterback.”
- Stay calm. Sensitive subject matter and camera crews make everyone naturally a little nervous. If you can stay calm and remember your goal and why you are doing this, that clarity will help guide you and your client through the tense moments.
AK: In true LPP fashion, I have to ask, “What’s Next” for this client?
AE: We want more! It’s not often technology can get center stage on TV. But, this has reminded us that the lines are not always fixed. Anything is possible.