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3 Cybersecurity Storytelling Strategies for COVID-19

10/5/2020
— Matt Trocchio, GM - SVP, Austin 

COVID-19 has created a challenging media landscape, but it’s also spurred new thinking in how we live and do business. One area that’s rich in opportunities for transformation and creativity is cybersecurity communications and storytelling.

Cybersecurity has been in high gear for the past six months, and it looks like it will remain there for the duration of the pandemic. As temporary work-from-home policies became permanent and industries that often lagged in technology adoption — such as education and healthcare — had to quickly spin up remote work solutions, security took center stage in response to the expanded perimeter. Meanwhile, as business-critical toolsets evolved, malicious actors maintained their momentum, which meant security vendors never slowed down on pushing new solutions. In this noisy and unprecedented environment, it could be tempting to lean in to the comfort of existing communications practices: Keep issuing press releases, keep writing blog posts highlighting how the results of your approach exceed those of the competition and keep the focus on products.

That said, the strongest cybersecurity stories being told right now suggest that cybersecurity communications professionals could generate unique, positive results by encouraging their stakeholders and spokespersons to shift their approach. Instead of sticking with the traditional methods of highlighting specific products and features, experts should look for stories that contextualize day-to-day challenges and help cybersecurity professionals do their jobs better. The following are three transformational and creative storytelling approaches that demonstrate this recommendation:

 

1. Help audiences understand the bigger picture 

The COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for security products. This created an even more crowded marketplace, with vendors vying for the attention of shrinking media audiences to push their products. Reporters are contending with an accelerated news environment, with regular high-profile hacks, simmering geopolitical threats and election vulnerabilities, in addition to a torrent of vendor announcements. This means product news is easily sidelined and companies need novel angles to capture media attention.

Instead of sharing product news that’s unlikely to get picked up, offer media outlets your expertise to contextualize news cycles, break down events and help audiences relate to cybersecurity news. As an example, Check Point has recently provided commentary for stories in the security landscape, intersecting with broader narratives. It highlighted the rise of cyberattacks at schools for TechRepublic, providing context to the trend of remote learning due to the pandemic. Its research on TikTok application bugs were featured in a Washington Post editorial, while Ars Technica highlighted its research on Google Play vulnerabilities.

 

2. Do influencers’ data legwork for them 

Reporters love digging into studies, threat research ​and postmortems to anticipate trends, purchasing dynamics or other datapoints that ​explain cybersecurity incidents. Data helps unlock narratives and stories relevant to the average consumer. Although many security vendors have a research arm and publish their findings, newsworthy nuggets in the reams of data produced can help brands identify stories that cut through the crowded marketplace.

With counsel from WE, Trend Micro successfully leveraged its research and analysis to provide reporters with valuable trend data, which later converted to top-tier business coverage. Digging into the data helped shift the strategy from simply pitching research to making a connection to consumers or business leaders, enticing business-focused conversations and reaching broader audiences, such as Wired and Bloomberg. WE collaborated with Trend Micro and jointly uncovered hooks that lead to these stories — one in the form of findings of DDoS hackers fighting each other for territory and targeting home routers, and the other on the observed and potential dangers of hackers compromising industrial robots. Security firms, no doubt, possess countless stories in their research and data, waiting to be discovered and shared.

 

3. Let your cybersecurity experts do the talking

Encourage subject matter experts to participate in stories that don’t push products, but instead lend observations and insights that can enrich reporter coverage. Executives, product engineers and researchers can provide great value to media, offering trend analysis and anticipating the future direction of the industry. Rather than focusing these executive efforts on product announcements, which continue to experience diminishing returns from an earned media perspective, leverage them as expert resources for reporters or identify trends they can speak to and offer comment on. In practice, this approach can come to life in many different forms.

In one client scenario, this approach produced a result that highlighted how denial of service attacks put emergency responders in danger. In another instance, sharing research about network attacks demonstrated how attackers used these vulnerabilities to mine cryptocurrencies.

 

The opportunity for cybersecurity

Like never before, brands find themselves in a fluid and constantly changing environment. While this may feel insurmountable, it also presents an opportunity for you to harness the motion and propel your brand forward. Technology disruption is constant and expectations are exponential. Agile brands show that with the right shift in attitude, from marketing to the C-suite, cybersecurity companies can stand out from the “sea of sameness” that often faces the cybersecurity industry. How will your brand take disruptive global events and turn them into opportunities to reconsider, rebuild and rethink?