Document safety has been an important issue for Sharp Document Solutions, a division of Sharp Electronics, for a long time.
Last year, the company offered data-security-kit software as an option for its copiers. The software ensured the privacy of work being duplicated, faxed, scanned, or printed, and some later models of the copiers included it.
While news of the importance of such security measures had been covered in trade titles, it wasn't something that easily caught the mainstream media's attention.
"It's a real challenge because, outside of generating publicity in the trade press, it's difficult to get consumer media interested in this story," says Dave Fogelson, director of corporate affairs at Sharp Electronics.
Sharp worked with Stanton Crenshaw to make the issue of document security one that could be of interest to the business and consumer press, as well as to all other interested parties.
Sharp sells its copiers exclusively through private dealers, so the PR team decided that this group was the most likely to benefit from a message about the data-security-kit option for the machines.
"The independent dealers were critical," says Dorothy Crenshaw, president of Stanton Crenshaw. "It was critical to reach them and win them over."
So Stanton Crenshaw decided that a presentation about document security at Sharp's national dealer meeting in Texas would be the best venue to get the message out to that audience. The meeting brought together about 1,000 representatives from private dealers, members from Sharp's internal sales organization, and Sharp executives from all over the world.
Months before the meeting, Stanton Crenshaw began pitching the document-security story to mainstream and trade media. Crenshaw says that the topic of document security was an "ingenious and exciting security story that just hadn't been told to the right media."
One of the major goals was to get it beyond trade publications, particularly into The Wall Street Journal. "We saw the opportunity to take it further," she says.
To fully demonstrate the vulnerability of the competition's copiers, and the importance of the data-security kit available with Sharp copiers, Stanton Crenshaw brought a professional "hacker" to the national dealer meeting. During the meeting's opening session, he made a presentation during which he hacked into a competitor's copier and printed out the information that had been copied on it only minutes before. "It dramatically and demonstratively showed everyone how easy it would be to get confidential information," Crenshaw says. "What better way to show them how important this is?"
Fogelson says the presentation increased the dealers' interest in document security. He adds that the meeting's breakout session about document security, hosted by the "hacker," was the best-attended session of all the ones offered.
"It really demonstrated how PR can go beyond media relations," he says. In addition, Sharp's role in trying to solve the document-security issue was featured in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Office Technology, The MFP Report, Government Security News, LiveWire, and The Cannata Report.
In the month following the Journal article, sales of the data-security kit doubled, and sales have continually increased each month after that, says Crenshaw.
Sharp continues to work with Stanton Crenshaw to promote the idea of data security. The company is constantly looking for ways to make it a relevant issue for consumers, most recently by focusing on the importance of document security during tax season.
PR team: Sharp Electronics (Mahwah, NJ) and Stanton Crenshaw Communications (New York)
Campaign: Data Security Kit for Sharp Copiers
Time frame: August to October 2004