Every news cycle follows a pattern. No matter what industry or sector you work in today, this cycle is ever-evolving and often chaotic. In cybersecurity in particular, new attacks and data breaches emerge almost every day. How can you seize on this cycle to elevate thought leaders and raise brand awareness?
Let’s take the recent Log4j software security vulnerability as a key example. This vulnerability had the potential to impact tens of millions of enterprise applications and consumers around the world. As Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Jen Easterly said, Log4j was the largest security vulnerability of her more than twenty-year career. We will be talking about this threat for a long time.
At RH Strategic, we helped our cybersecurity clients pursue and break into this crowded news cycle to share insight and expertise. This approach is typically called having a rapid response program. However, because so many organizations use this PR strategy, you need to time it correctly and have a unique perspective or original data to earn media interest. To do that, you first need to understand the anatomy of a news cycle.
1. Start of the News Cycle: The Land Grab
When the Log4j vulnerability was first discovered in late November 2021, the news immediately swept the world — from mainstream outlets to all of the cybersecurity trade publications. Media discussed the issue, its potential impact and immediate steps organizations should take to ward off potential attacks.
In this first phase, earning media coverage for your organization is a land grab. Those who are prepared, have established media relationships (through a PR agency or personal connections) and get there first have the best chance of inclusion. However, you also need to have a relevant perspective and connection to the news. Our clients were quick out of the gate, and those with expertise most closely aligned to the Log4j threat earned the most coverage.
To prepare for future news events like this, we recommend building a bench of industry experts who can quickly discuss a variety of topics. These spokespeople should be media trained and able to share written commentary and participate in interviews in a manner of hours.
2. Mid News Cycle: Evolution and Innovation
During the second phase of a story, the media will share updates on how the issue is evolving or has been corrected. The Log4j news cycle was unique in that once a fix was issued (a patch, in this case), more vulnerabilities were found within the patch. This happened three times, so there were plenty of opportunities for analysis and potential commentary.
This phase offers an opportunity for those who weren’t fast enough to be first to arrive late with a more thoughtful, analytical take. For this, you will need fresh insights, best practices, and solid advice on how to correct the problem and protect against it. Without that, it may be hard to earn media commentary.
If possible, we recommend that clients compile new proprietary data about the issue to share with media and their audiences (through blog posts, infographics and social media). Example data can include who the issue is affecting most (industries, geographies, types of technology), how long it’s taking to correct, where it’s most prevalent and other industry-specific data points. Having this type of data will make you stand out and increase your chances of inclusion.
3. Post News Cycle: Future Impact
The final phase is forward looking. We are in this phase now for Log4j, with coverage providing a deeper analysis of the issue’s fallout (enterprise and potential consumer impacts), any notable attacks, how to protect against similar vulnerabilities in the future and government discussion of the need for software security regulations.
Media and the public will seek expertise on where we go from here. This phase can offer a great opportunity to develop long-form written content and to participate in interviews with media and multimedia, such as through podcasts, webinars, LinkedIn Live, public speaking engagements and other channels.
Three Ways to Prepare for the Next Cycle
To earn your place in any phase of a news cycle, you need to be prepared. Here are three steps you can take to get ready:
- Make sure you have the PR resources to identify developing stories and opportunities for you to offer expertise in a breaking news cycle.
- Identify your spokespeople and get them media training.
- Think about the research and marketing resources you have and whether you can conduct unique research and develop branded reports and collateral when the time comes.
If you do these three things, you should be in a good position to seize media opportunities and make your mark on a news cycle.
RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based PR agency with a nationwide presence and additional global reach via membership in the Worldcom Public Relations Group. We provide strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, government and healthcare markets.
Interested in joining our team? We’re growing, and we’re looking for experienced, energetic people to join us. Learn more at rhstrategic.com/careers.