Shoe-horning news to fit the product
As a journalist, an endless source of amusement is the contortions of both reality and logic employed by vendors trying to shoe-horn an event – real or pretended – into an endorsement of their own product. Take this I received today from a senior executive in a major security firm in relation to ‘Hacktivist Bonfire Night Attacks’. (Which ones were they exactly? A few hundred physical protestors turned up in response to a call from AnonUKIre on 5 November, but the UK will always suffer from the legendary apathy of the Brits – almost 2 millennia ago, Tacitus wrote, “The Britons themselves bear cheerfully the conscription, the taxes, and the other burdens imposed on them by the Empire.”)
Anyway, this guy told me (and a hundred other journos), “The recent security breaches are no surprise, given that hacktivist groups are always seeking media attention around significant political events such as the US election…” First point, get the PR to substitute ‘elections’ for ‘Bonfire Night’ for the UK journos.
Then comes the next paragraph: “Organizations need to be vigilant because these threats aren’t usually easy to forecast.” But didn’t he just say that they were no surprise…?
It’s all rounded off, of course, by the inevitable advert. “Layering strong security in the forms… [of our products]” is the solution.
This basic format is repeated several times every day: vague threats followed by far-fetched solutions.
I think the main problem is that many companies and some PRs have not realized that times have changed. Regardless of their size, they no longer create the news, and certainly can’t control it. News now mostly comes from the blogs of those concerned, and is disseminated by Twitter, not PRs. All that vendors can do is add value to the news. Without adding that value they’re wasting their time – and more importantly, mine.