PR pros pride themselves on mastering the art of the written word, but it’s time to get into a new mindset. Pounding out prose to populate press releases, fact sheets and talking points can be all consuming, client-pleasing and often mentally rewarding (“I nailed that lead”). No matter how perfectly fashioned, words on paper sometimes fail to communicate in a truly human way; it’s a combination of words, sounds and visuals is what our brains crave – and remember.
I recently attended McAfee’s annual customer event, FOCUS, where this complete approach was on full display for the 3,000 people in attendance. In one keynote, CTO Mike Fey sought to make the point that the cyber threat has reached a new level of sophistication, one where two harmless pieces of code can breeze through a company’s firewall and combine to form a nasty piece of malware that can wreak havoc on the network.
First he used the example of Mentos and Coke, two harmless elements that are explosive when combined. His team brought out the science experiment and placed it precariously close to the audience in the front rows. Thankfully for the attendees, Mike’s demonstration was artificial – no one got soaked – but he made his point.
With this concept firmly rooted in everyone’s’ imaginations, Mike and his team then pressed their point by staging an attack. The attacker, wearing a sinister red and bathed in a fiery light, pointed at the giant screen to a beautiful photo of the Mars rover. He showed how he had altered a few of the pixels from the original image. Then he unleashed his attack, sending an email invitation to the unsuspecting user (presumably a NASA fan) standing at the other end of the stage, wearing blue, to open a harmless HTML page on his PC. The team used the giant screen to show how the HTML file connected with the Mars Rover image and interpreted the altered pixels as the instructions it needed to infiltrate the PC, and ultimately the network.
Point made. And remembered. Sometimes the written word is all you’ve got – such as with this blog post. But McAfee’s visual display is a powerful example of how a little imagination and a devotion to communicating visually go a long way toward satisfying the human desire to relate to new ideas through more than just words.