The media coming out from the USA is known to be full of scare mongering and sensationally presented stories bordering on the ridiculous.
It was no surprise to me then, when watching 60 minutes this Sunday night they included a report from CBS news about a new computer virus that has invaded the world’s computers and is just sitting dormant at the moment waiting to pounce. They likened the spread of the virus to terrorist cells which are spread across the world. The online terrorist is reported to be based somewhere in Russia and just like the world’s most wanted terrorist, this hacker is impossible to find.
What struck me about this piece of reporting is that it was a brilliant piece of PR for Symantec, a high profile provider of anti-virus software. During the interview with the Vice President of Security, Technology and Response, Stephen Trilling, he had a smile from ear to ear as he confidently reassured viewers that they would be protected from this ‘terrorist’ virus by his products. I would not be at all surprised if Symantec’s PR set up the entire story and I am sure they are going to reap the rewards from the ‘terrorised’ American (and thanks to 60 minutes) Australian viewers.
You might be wondering why I sound annoyed by this style of reporting seeing as I am a PR practitioner myself. Symantec’s PR team were doing exactly what we would do to gain fabulous exposure for our clients. They came up with a great angle (terrorist virus unleashed on the world) and offered themselves as a spokesperson for the interview. Full points to them for gaining brilliant exposure that will lead to greater brand awareness and most likely feed through to a great increase in sales.
I’m just amazed that CBS News decided to use Symantec as the main talent for the story when it was so obvious that they were going to gain from it and had most likely set the story up.
Did anyone else see the story? What do you think? Can you recall any other ‘news’ items that you might have seen where it was an obvious PR set up?