CAMPAIGNS: Crisis Management - Debugging the ’love letter’ virus

Client: Sophos Anti-Virus

Client: Sophos Anti-Virus

Campaign: ’Loveletter’ computer virus

PR Team: Johnson King

Timescale: 4 May - ongoing

Budget: Part of retainer

On Thursday 4 May the ’I love you’ computer virus caused havoc for

computer networks across the globe. Dubbed the ’Love Bug’ it was

reported to be the fastest-spreading computer virus and is estimated to

have caused millions of pounds worth of damage to businesses, including

the closure of the MSN network.

The virus acted similarly to the Melissa virus of last year. It appeared

as an attachment on an e-mail from a friend or colleague, under the

heading ’I love you’, and once opened forwarded itself to everyone in

the user’s e-mail address book. Anti-virus company Sophos seized the

opportunity to be seen as the ’anti-virus expert’ for the duration of

the story.


To ensure that Sophos Anti-Virus spokespeople were seen by the media as

providing expert advice on the possible effects of the virus. To inform

businesses and the public that the company had devised a downloadable

’patch’ or ’cure’ for the virus.

To raise the profile of Sophos as the UK’s leading anti-virus software

provider by educating businesses and the public on steps they can take

to avoid ’infection’.

Strategy and Plan

Sophos contacted its retained agency Johnson King on the morning of 4

May. This chain-letter style of virus proliferates extremely quickly so

it was vital to act swiftly.

The agency was warned that a new virus called ’Loveletter’ had been

detected and had already caused disruption to business and personal

e-mail systems.

As a hi-tech specialist Johnson King was able to use its experience in

dealing with viruses to address the media. The agency obtained detailed

information from Sophos and targeted journalists at national newspapers,

TV and radio stations.

The story was only just breaking, so Johnson King was able to provide

the media with information on the virus and ensure that Sophos was one

of the companies quoted. The agency liaised with Sophos and set up phone

interviews with company spokespeople, including director of corporate

communications Graham Cluley.

Johnson King also arranged a phone interview with PA News. It resulted

in Sophos being the only anti-virus firm to be quoted on the newswire,

so any media that had not spoken to Johnson King were able to quote from

the interview.

Measurement and Evaluation

All of the national press ran the ’Lovebug’ story and quoted Sophos

Anti-Virus as an expert in computer viruses. The message that Sophos had

developed a cure also came through. Trade magazine Computer Weekly and

regional newspapers, including the Western Mail and Scotland on Sunday,

also ran the story.

Broadcast media who ran the story included ITN, Channel Four News,

Channel Five, Radio 1 and Radio 5.

Sophos was also quoted in some international media including the Wall

Street Journal Europe, ABC - Good Morning America, ABC News and CNN



Many people reading or hearing about the ’I love you’ virus in the

national and international media would have been made aware of the

Sophos name as an anti-virus company.

Cluley was quoted extensively, being cited as ’one of the world’s

leading experts in computer viruses’ and was praised by journalists for

his simple use of language on a potentially confusing technical topic.

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