Hikvision Hires Ex-Milestone Head To Lead Global PR

Author: John Honovich, Published on Apr 06, 2018

Hikvision has PR problems. From its failed attempt at hiring a crisis communication writer to their failed anti-IPVM blog series to the increasing global coverage of their Chinese government ownership, Hikvision is struggling to find a solution.

Enter Milestone's former Head of Corporate Communication Karl Erik Traberg, whom Hikvision has hired as their Global Communications and PR Director.

In this note, we examine the hire, why this is a very good move, how Traberg could help Hikvision and what challenges he faces. Plus, we include a statement direct from Hikvison to IPVM about the hiring.

Hikvision PR Historically Fractured

Hikvision has historically run public relations in a fractured manner across the world. In some cases, Hikvision corporate would be involved, in others it fell to individual regions, like the Americas and EMEA. Some other industry companies do similarily so this is not inherently a problem but Hikvision had uncommon coverage concerns.

Global Coverage / Issues

The challenge for Hikvision was that the attention it is receiving has become increasingly global and often highly negative. This is not just IPVM, recall the 2 WSJ reports in the past 6 months, the UK Times investigation, the UK Sun investigation, the US Voice of America report, Barron's speculating if Trump bans Hikvision, etc. This raises the question of who talks to those publications and how does Hikvision coordinate messaging about such sensitive topics across the globe.

Chinese Companies Used To Attacking

Inside the People's Republic of China, it is normal for the government to attack their critics. Speech is highly censored and critics are regularly detained or imprisoned. So dealing with people they cannot control is, literally, foreign. As an example, in today's China government-run People's Daily: Trump doomed to fail by waging trade war against China for mid-term poll gains. Compare to Hikvision's Blogger’s Cyberbullying Mission Tiresome, Destined to Fail. Hikvision has similarly criticized the WSJ and attacked Genetec as being dirty.

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In fairness, Hikvision has more recently realized that this is not a productive way to interact with the free world.

Traberg Success At Milestone

Traberg was at Milestone for a decade and we interacted with him for many years. One of his key differentiators is that he is very level-headed, calm and works hard at getting an appropriate answer. Many communications people want to drown the media in happy talk and hand waving. And, in their defense, this works well with the trade media so there is a rationale for doing this. However, with media not dependent on Hikvision for advertising (whether IPVM or global press), this works poorly.

Traberg is a very good choice for communicating professionally with world media. Moreover, he has the personality and temperament to navigate the many stakeholders inside of Hikvision, who are often quite emotional about these issues.

Hikvision Traberg Statement To IPVM

Traberg shared the following statement with IPVM:

My role is focused on driving our strategic approach to brand communications and media relations everywhere outside China. I will be based in Europe and working a lot at our headquarters in China, which is located in Hangzhou, a very dynamic city with an amazing base of other strong technology firms. We are still in the early stage of our globalization as a company and hopefully, I will be able to make a positive contribution to that as well.

Having worked for a number of global market leaders in Europe, USA and Asia inside and outside the security industry, I saw an excellent opportunity joining Hikvision because the company has so much potential to further impact the industry positively with new technologies and solutions creating additional value for our partners and end-users.

Now that I have had an opportunity to meet a lot of new colleagues in our headquarters and in some of our international offices, I am convinced that I made the right choice. It is great joining a company with so many smart and passionate colleagues. I will be working very closely with our regional marketing and communications teams and we are in the process of getting to know each other and clarifying roles and processes.

No Comment On Issues Yet

Traberg declined to comment on any specific issues for now (technology, politics or otherwise), noting that he is currently reviewing and gathering information in his new position. That is understandable since many of these issues are complex and sensitive. However, in the next few months, he will most likely face pressure to deal with the ongoing PR challenges Hikvision faces.

'Government' Issue Far More Challenging Than Milestone

Traberg task at Hikvision is far more challenging than at Milestone. The one key issue is the China PRC government's role with Hikvision. Hikvision executives are extremely sensitive and emotional about the issue. And in a world where Western conflict with the PRC government is growing and the PRC is becoming increasingly authoritarian, this will be no easy task.

Hikvision has repeatedly claimed to be a 'commercial' entity, that the Chinese government is just one of 'diverse' set of shareholders. By contrast, IPVM has shown evidence direct from Hikvision's own financials that the Chinese government is their controlling shareholder, and that, by Hikvision's own acknowledgment, the Chinese government can exert significant influence over their business. How Traberg navigates this issue will be critical.

Improved Structure / Potential

This is definitely a good move for Hikvision and a good choice for them that should help.

Poll / Vote

2 reports cite this report:

Milestone Drops Hikvision From Elite Partners on Feb 11, 2019
Milestone has quietly dropped Hikvision from their 'Elite Partners', less than 3 years after adding the Chinese government-owned...
Hikvision Corrects False Cybersecurity Announcement on Jun 18, 2018
Hikvision has corrected a false cybersecurity announcement that claimed a British government-sponsored program endorsed the cybersecurity of...
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