PR Firm Stacks Former Security Editors

By Carlton Purvis, Published Aug 09, 2013, 12:00am EDT (Info+)

CompassPR [link no longer available], whose clients [link no longer available] include Tyco, Genetec, Siemens and Mobotix, is poised to become the most powerful PR agency in the security industry after adding one of the most well-known security trade magazine editors to its roster.

Deborah O'Mara, former editor-in-chief and managing director of Security Dealer and Integrator Magazine, joined CompassPR recently, according to her updated LinkedIn profile [link no longer available]. The new entry says she will work as the agency’s editorial director.

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Comments (9)

I almost feel sorry for manufacturers here. In a contest between PR agencies and manufacturers, it's hard for me to choose :)

Certainly, this will make it even tough for manufacturers to get coverage, though I think trade mag coverage is overrated anyway. When we first started, I wrote a bunch of articles and was cited by the magazines regularly until I realized that the impact was nil and hardly anyone read them.

That said, here are a few ways for manufacturers to get the word out:

  • Buy email blasts: The best part of a magazine is their email list. While rarely do people go to trade magazine websites (since they have little new / interesting content), many people will read emails (it might only be 5% or 10% of the list but with 20,000+ emails on a list that is still 1,000 to 2,000 unique reads). Similarly, do a webinar as it comes with a series of dedicated email blasts.
  • Pay an integrator to blog / promote you: This is the MxInstaller model and he's done a great job of proselytizing them. Unlike trade editors or PR people who are typically clueless, and integrator can make far more credible arguments.
  • Do your own blog: Most manufacturer blogs are terrible but here's an example of a great one.

Or you can put Compass PR on retainer for thousands a month and have them get you into websites hardly anyone reads.

@ Carlton

I'd be curious to see a PR firm client contract....

It's no secret that running ads in trade pubs can elevate a companies CEO to the position of industry 'thought leader' status by allowing the new scribe a steady stream of column inches with which to pontificate (and sell their products).

I wonder if the PR firms come right out and tell new clients how much it will cost them to 'pay to play' or if they have to dance around it for awhile until the new client 'gets' it.

I have talked to numerous manufacturers about this point over the years. It varies somewhat by magazine,and it is generally not a straight pay for play. However, manufacturers routinely talk about the explicit pressure to buy ads from magazines that feature them or let them 'contribute' articles.

One thing manufacturers can do to help trade magazine editors is write things for them. One of the dirty little secrets of trade mags is how many things are ghostwritten by PR people and then attributed to manufacturer executives or editors. Mags have limited staffs and limited expertise so you don't always have to pay with money, you can do it with work.

Carlton has his own stories...

"I wonder if the PR firms come right out and tell new clients how much it will cost them to 'pay to play' or if they have to dance around it for awhile until the new client 'gets' it."

There's no dancing, most things are pretty upfront. I'm not sure if I have any of our previous PR firm contracts handy (we're not currently signed up with any specific firm), but I'll check and see.

Fees can range from $5,000-$20,000+ per month, and the net deliverables are often vague. Mostly because the firm is "trying" to get you exposure/coverage. There are usually some set things they'll do (tweet for you (mostly useless, IMO), do some blogging, etc.), and then opportunistic. When I've been at companies that used PR firms in the past (in this industry and others), we'd usually get about 2-6 instances per month where there are content placement opportunities. Eg: "somesite.com is doing an article on intrustion prevention for foodcart vendors and is looking for "expert opinion" on the topic of portable barbed wire fence systems. Do you want to write a proposal, or submit content for this?" If there is some specific news-worthy event (like the Boston bombing) you'll see a huge influx of media requests from all angles.

As some of the above items allude to, you're mostly paying for someone to scout out opportunities and maintain relationships to various media outlets. In the past I've submitted content and/or done interviews for a plethora of random online sites, industry-specific publications, online and print WSJ articles, and one segment for NBC News (we spent 6 hours filming a segment that never aired because it was timed around 9/11, and the whole show it was supposed to air on ended being dedicated to "terrorism" stuff).

The right PR firms can be really valuable and can help you get "thought leadership" (I hate that term) pieces positioned in lots of outlets. They'll also provide some data on trending topics, what is being picked up, etc. The crappy ones can take thousands of dollars per month to do almost nothing of value.

If you take some time to cultivate your own relationships, you can get a lot of exposure oppoetunities for $0 per month, but it takes more concerted effort. An example being the SIA article that was recently published with my content. We/I didn't pay anything for that, and didn't use a firm to get exposure/access to it. However, I've been writing online content for a LONG time (going back to '98), and have some background in journalism (again, a LONG time ago), so I can usually submit content that doesn't require a lot of editing. IMO, having personnel on staff that "get it" and can churn out quality stuff that isn't just disguised marketing gets you a lot of opportunities. Combine that with a firm that can filter through everything going on and get you to the best outlets and you can do a lot to gain exposoure.

" One of the dirty little secrets of trade mags is how many things are ghostwritten by PR people and then attributed to manufacturer executives or editors."

Yes, this does happen quite often. There was exactly one instance of someone trying to hang my name on something I didn't write. Not sure where that person works now.

That's good insight, B. Karas. Thanks for sharing.

Brian, you are spot on when you say if you submit articles that need little editing to trade mags that they are more likely to get in. I don't think there is a lot distinction between what is disguised marketing or not though. If it's free content and the copy is clean, I think there is a good chance it gets in.

Brian Karas, thanks for the insights. One think that you touch on is the difference in publications that a PR agency 'specializes' / 'has strength in'. For instance, with CompassPR, they might be great at placing you in security trade mags but they are likely useless for bigger mainstream press whereas a more traditional PR agency could have strong contacts / history with reports on those publications.

This is the power of having a PR team with strong connections to a trade magazine in three (real-life) examples:

  • A magazine is ready to go to print. A manufacturer's PR person calls the editor-in-chief to place an article in the upcoming issue arguing the topic is time sensitive and that they are giving you the exclusive because "they have worked with you before." Stories written by other contributors get pushed to a different section of the magazine or to another issue altogether to make space.
  • A magazine publishes a story about a lawsuit involving one of its biggest advertisers and a sexual assault. The PR team for the advertiser calls the magazine and reminds the editors how much the company spends in ads and threatens to pull some. Because the PR person has known the editor-in-chief for years, a backroom deal is negotiated. The magazine agrees to take down the article and publish a marketing piece, penned by the PR team and to do an interview with the VP of the company for a future article.
  • A PR person has a good relationship with a trade magazine editor-in-chief so come trade shows, they can promise most of their clients meetings with the magazine. The magazine says it books meetings with companies on a first come, first serve basis, but if the PR agency comes first with 10-15 clients, they have effectively booked 90 percent of the meeting slots with that magazine. This looks great to the agency's clients, great to the editor-in-chief to scout potential advertisers, and not so great to other companies who have been trying for years to sit down with an editor.
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