Concerns over Internet security and fraud have been around seemingly forever, so you would think the topic would be old hat for journalists by now.
But whether it's consumer identity theft or corporate IT breaches, plenty of breaking news still exists to keep these online security issues on the media's front burner.
"It's actually become an easier story to pitch, though the focus has shifted because of all the changes in tech," explains Sandra Fathi, president of Affect Strategies. The focus used to be on individuals exposing their credit card information online, Fathi says. "Now, we are talking about the Veterans Administration losing a million records with Social Security numbers, so the level of fear has risen," she adds.
It also means that instead of pitching products or services, the best PR strategy for anyone with clients in the online security or fraud space may be to wait for a high-profile event and then piggyback on that with second-day commentary.
"Every event [about] online click fraud, we send out e-mails to journalists offering up executives as expert sources," says Libby Communications head David Libby, who represents ABCSearch, a search engine with tools for minimizing search marketing fraud.
"We get these huge spikes in media interest driven by, say, TJ Maxx revealing lost data that causes a frenzy that lasts for days or, in some cases, months," adds Scott Mitic, who as CEO of Trusted ID, a provider of solutions to prevent consumer identify theft, gets regular calls from journalists looking for quotes on breaking online security stories.
"There also seem to be new angles all the time, including stories on ID theft committed against children and online fraud related to medical benefits."
He adds that illegal activities like "phishing" or "key-logging" can be very complex. But they do have a lot of underlying built-in drama.
"These are really smart people applying knowledge for malicious goals and really smart people trying to stop them," Mitic says. "Last year, 100 million-plus Americans had personal information compromised, so it's not going away."
Lauren Sell, an SAE in Porter Novelli's Austin, TX, office who represents the intrusion prevention system Tippingpoint, stresses that you shouldn't get mired in the technology involved in security breaches when pitching stories.
"For most reporters and their audiences, these are business issues," she says. "So we work to make it relevant to business leaders and show how they can ensure it doesn't happen to them."
PITCHING... internet security issues
Online security impacts a wide variety of companies and individuals, so don't limit your pitches to tech reporters
Because there likely will be many high-profile security breaches going forward, look to leverage breaking news by offering up clients as experts who can comment on the latest events and solutions
Don't get mired in the technology behind online security issues - keep your pitches simple, and include lots of easy-to-grasp statistics and tips