User Groups and the News Media. January, 2007 Presented by Ira Wilsker APCUG Director Radio and TV Show Host Newspaper Columnist Beaumont, Texas. GROUND RULES:
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Radio and TV Show Host
This session is intended to be more of a group discussion, rather than a pure presentation. Please feel free to contribute, question, or discuss as you see fit.
We will all benefit from a mutual exchange of ideas.
That is why we are all here.
You want to establish a positive relationship will ALL of the local media. You want them to know who you are and what benefits and services you can provide them. There are several methods of contact that may be used.
EMAIL – We all have and use email. Some of us receive hundreds of emails a day, and actually read very few, and act on even less. News directors and editors are no different. Most newspapers and station websites now list email addresses of key personnel and departments. Unless the media explicitly asks for email submissions for community calendars, story ideas, or other such items, emails are generally ineffective at getting the attention of those we need in the media. Still, media contacts should be emailed with appropriate announcements. If emailing more than one resource, use the BCC line rather than the TO line; it is good etiquette not to show all of the addresses used, and to the recipient it will look less like a mass mailing. It would not be a bad idea to follow up with a phone call if you think the item is especially newsworthy.
FAX – Newsrooms and editors typically receive dozens of faxes daily; many come from professional PR agencies. Unless there is something to grab their attention in the first few seconds, most end up in File 13. If you fax, use a larger than normal font, and be sure to have a catchy lead line that will grab the attention of the reader. Use the media website to get the name and fax number of the news manager or news editor, and address the fax personally to him or her. If you cannot easily find the correct fax number, phone the station or newspaper and ask for the fax number of the person you want to reach.
PHONE – You can likely locate the phone numbers of key media personnel on the media website. With smaller outlets, the staff may be minimal, so locating the correct person is often easy. Larger outlets often have editors who cover specific beats, topics, or areas; if possible contact them directly. In terms of protocol, some media outlets assign stories to reporters and give the reporter free rein to produce the assigned story, while in other outlets reporters have the freedom to pursue their own stories. If you phone it is often better to ask for a person by name, otherwise ask for the title such as “news director” or “community editor” as listed on the website.
Once successful contact is made, it is imperative that a good working relationship be maintained in order to continue the productive relationship. Make note of all contacts and the degree of response, success, or interest displayed by each.
Many in the media create and maintain lists of community contacts for specific purposes. Directly ask that your information be retained if ever needed in the future.
Snail Mail – While the volume has declined substantially due to electronic messaging, news personnel still receive significant quantities of paper mail. In larger outlets a clerk or secretary will open and screen the mail, sometimes with the authority to trash useless or uninteresting mail. Just as with a fax, use an easy to read and larger than normal font (such as 12 point Arial). Address the envelope and letter to a specific individual if possible. Using a mail merge in a word processor can quickly and easily generate several very personalized letters and envelopes. A small item that sometimes makes the difference is printing the address directly on the envelope, rather than using a stick-on label; the label indicates that the letter was likely mailed to multiple destinations, and may therefore get less attention.
Request that the recipient maintain your contact information as a resource if ever needed.
PERSONAL CONTACT – This may be among the best methods to get you and your UG noticed. Take advantage of personal networking at any event, such as church or temple, Rotary, Lions, school or other events. Carry business cards with UG and personal contact information and freely distribute them. Befriend any media personnel met at such meetings. Do not be a pest, but once you are personally known, follow up with a short and polite phone call confirming your contact information, and reminding the person that you or members of your UG are available whenever needed. This relationship can be cultivated for mutual benefit.
If the opportunity arises, mention that you and other experts in the field may be available for news interviews on computer topics, or as a regular series of columns or shows. Some local TV and radio stations do an informative “computer minute” or “website of the day” with sponsorship paid by local businesses. There may also be an opportunity to do a regular show, as well as appear in or on the news on a regular basis. All of the time you can promote your UG.
1. Computer security is an excellent topic for radio talk shows, morning TV news shows, news at noon type shows, and other media events. Contact the news editors at the local radio and TV stations, as well as at the local newspapers, especially any local weekly newspapers. Offer to be a resource giving a local perspective to any contemporary news item about hackers, viruses, online pedophiles, or other computer related topics. The local media often looks for locals to interview. This is an excellent way to get the word out as to current issues in cyber security and to promote the user group.
2. Submit stories or op-ed pieces on computer security topics to the local print media. This serves a need for public education, and is an excellent PR tool. Most local Sunday newspapers offer an op-ed page for local contributions.
7. Emphasize to the media the importance of safe computing practices at home and at the office, including frequent updating of antivirus, anti-spyware, and firewall software.
8. Inform the media that many ISPs, especially broadband providers, often offer free security software; if the users do not have adequate security software, they should consider using the software provided by the ISP.
9. Work with the media to promote a computer fest or seminar at a popular location, such as shopping malls, public schools, or other convenient locations. Many media outlets will sponsor such activities.
10. If there is an especially good presentation scheduled for a UG meeting that is timely, or if a renowned presenter is speaking, actively contact local media resources and request coverage.
11. Media likes doing stories on bargains for their audience. Imagine your local news doing a feature on free software. Discuss with the media free security software for home computers, such as:
AVG Antivirus - http://free.grisoft.com
ZONE ALARM (free version) – http://www.zonelabs.com
SPYBOT SEARCH & DESTROY ANTI-SPYWARE -
A MORE SECURE BROWSER, SUCH AS FIREFOX –
or the NEW version of Internet Explorer, IE7 -
There are several other decent quality free security utilities; do a search and evaluation to determine which ones to recommend, and show them to the media.
Explain to the media that there are thousands or millions of mostly privately owned computers that are used as ZOMBIES to disseminate billions of SPAM emails, and launch coordinated attacks on our infrastructure. Likely many of these are local.
12. Demonstrate to the media that everyone needs to periodically run one of the several free online security scans, such as:
MICROSOFT – http://safety.live.com (Click on shield; requires IE)
12. (CONTINUED) Have the media encourage everyoneto periodically run one of the several free online security scans, such as: TREND MICRO – http://housecall.trendmicro.com
(works on all browsers)
12. (CONTINUED) Explain to the media that running an online security scan, the user can easily determine if his security has been penetrated by malware. Remember that most antivirus and anti-spyware software is REACTIVE, rather than PROACTIVE. Just like this morning’s newspaper is yesterday’s news, today’s AV update is often yesterday’s virus signatures. It is quite possible that new malware will slip through the software, and possibly disable the AV, making the computer even more vulnerable. An online scan will likely determine if the security has been breached. Utilize the media to educate the public.
13. Tell the media about new threats such as ROOTKITS. While there are a few rootkit detectors on the market (including some very good freeware products), some of the new 2007 versions of the major commercial security suites are now including rootkit detection and removal.
14. Get the media involved in an outreach program; some media outlets may select computer security and safety as a PR tool of their own. With media sponsorship, offer to discuss cyber security at outside organizations’ in-service education programs, and offer to do presentations to Rotary, Lions, PTA, religious groups, and any other reasonable meeting opportunity. This will enhance the security of our cyber infrastructure as more people become aware of the risks and solutions, and implement them because you planted “the bug in their ear.” Offer your UG members, as a community service to the media, to help the general population secure their personal computers. The media often looks for those doing good deeds for the community.
15. Promote through participation “National Cyber Security Month” (October). This IS a media event! Details http://www.staysafeonline.org. Implement media events on cyber security awareness. Offer to speak to K-12, college and community college classes, and other organizations on cyber security. Prepared PSA announcements are available to the media.
As user group leaders we, along with the media, have a duty to protect our critical cyber infrastructure. Our computers at home and at work are a part of that vital infrastructure, and need to be protected. By implementing and encouraging good relationships with our local media, we can promote our user groups as well as cyber safety and security.
We have seen too many times the havoc that can be created by rapidly propagating viruses, worms, and Trojans. We have all seen the evidence that hackers and crackers can threaten our security, both institutional and personal. We have seen how countless computers taken over by zombies have launched coordinated and massive attacks on our infrastructure. Sadly, while these events get media attention, we can be a valuable resource to the media.
Let us work together with the media, and help secure all of our computers, thus reducing the chances of both personal and societal cyber attack.
Ira WilskerAPCUG Board of Directorsiwilsker@apcug.netListen Saturdays at 1-3 pm CENTRALTIME at KLVI.COMRead my weekly column at www.theexaminer.com – click on the image of the front page, then Page Guide – then Personal Technology