Flacks on Hacks: What the LinkedIn, eHarmony and Romney Security Breaches Mean to the Media and PR
By Dan Chmielewski, Principal, Madison Alexander PR
It’s been about a week since the security breaches of popular social media sites LinkedIn and eHarmony made news (as reported in this CBS story), along with the hack of candidate Mitt Romney’s HotMail and Dropbox accounts (as reported in on InformationWeek here). And as one might expect, the PR teams at these companies (and Mr. Romney’s campaign staff) did a great job of explaining what happened, how the breach might affect users and what to do to protect one’s account.
But these breaches are only the latest in what surely will be more high profile security breaches to come. The LinkedIn, eHarmony and HotMail/Dropbox hack were actually wonderful opportunities for data security companies to demonstrate how even perceived secure sites can be hacked.
My agency represents several data security clients, and we were able to use a combination of speed and a no-product pitch to secure several interviews in the business and trade press. The key is having your client be comfortable about discussing the breach at hand without tying it back to their product. One editor was adamant that an authentication client we offered not make a product pitch for their two factor authentication solution before he agreed to the interview. Other editors have told us a direct product pitch for this means the quote never sees the light of day.
Now this seems to place PR professionals in a tough spot. We have clients who can address the issue but to get coverage, can’t suggest why their product would prevent or inhibit the security breach. Why bother? Two words: Thought leadership.
We’re fortunate to have many of our clients comfortable in addressing security issues that make the news. If we have several clients that are able to comment, we offer all of them to our security press list and the press picks the ones they want to speak with. We can then follow through with an interview or submitted answers to emailed questions if there is a really tight deadline. The key is responsiveness on the part of a client and saying something that adds to the story while demonstrating knowledge, understanding and competence. Great quotes in stories without a product pitch do lead to increased web traffic and they also lead to more interview requests from other journalists down the line.
In the case of last week’s security breaches, clients were able to convey that usernames and passwords are inherently insecure and that users need to up the ante on protecting their security and privacy. The Hotmail hack allowed us to go after political reporters in addition to technology journalists. Clients figured out quickly, they need to take great care in explaining complex technology in plain English about how Hotmail accounts could be hacked. If a future security breach occurs, we’ve established these clients as credible sources who can explain complex security technology simply.
Dan Chmielewski is the principal of Madison Alexander PR, a boutique technology agency based in Southern California. Madison Alexander PE was the 2011 PR Agency of the Year for Security Companies according to Info Security Products Guide. Chmielewski was the publication’s 2012 Security PR Pro of the Year. www.madisonalexanderpr.com
Published: June 12, 2012 By: