The Ugly Truth about Data Breaches

explosion of brick 3d wall

I recently wrote an article “Protecting Against Data Breaches Is Serious Business” for Enterprise Features. (The byline is me, pseudonyms are my friend.) It was relevant this last March, and it’s seriously relevant today. Here’s an excerpt and a link to the full article:

Protecting Against Data Breaches Is Serious Business

In late 2016, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout reported that business data breaches were up 40% from the year before–and that only included reported breaches. Almost half of the breaches occurred in the business sector. This sector stores valuable customer information, yet the level of data breach protection ranges from pretty good to completely inadequate.

Regulated sectors except for healthcare did well, with the education sector, government / military, and financial sectors at a low number of reported breaches. The financial sector was lowest of all, which makes sense given the industry’s robust compliance and security. However, despite privacy regulations healthcare failed badly, reporting nearly 35% of the overall number of data breaches.

Data attack types abound. Skimming is a popular criminal activity at the consumer level, where humans or hidden scanners steal credit information from a credit or debit card. And even simple device theft can be devastating. Coca-Cola found this out when a disgruntled employee stole several laptops containing highly sensitive personal information on over 70,000 employees and contractors (Moral of the story: encrypt sensitive data on mobile devices.)

In most businesses however, cyberattacks like hacking and phishing caused the most damage. Two of the largest hacks in Internet history happened on Yahoo’s watch. There were two occurrences, the first in 2013 and the second in 2014. The 2014 breach affected over 500 million user accounts. The 2013 breach affected – get this – 1 billion user accounts. Stolen data included customer names and email, phone numbers, security Q&A, birthdates, and passwords. Although Yahoo did not publicly report the breaches until 2016, at the time they involved the FBI thanks to disturbing evidence of state-sponsored cyber activity.

And here’s the kicker: as of March 1, 2017, Yahoo reported that an additional 32 million user accounts have been hacked. The hacking is probably related to the 2014 breach.

Hacking and Phishing: What’s the Difference?

To read about the difference and learn lots more great stuff, read the entire article here.

[Are you interested in high value articles for B2B trade pubs but don’t have the time? I lost count of the articles I’ve written for clients and publications. Let’s talk! Email me today at]

When Slower Content Marketing is Better Content Marketing

Blessed to be a blessing
By: Lucy Orloski

I love this post on slower content marketing creation from Nicola Brown. Nicola’s intro paragraphs calmed my heart rate with her story of an out-of-the-way, slow-moving UK village called Chipping.

She takes those lessons and asks the question: “Could a Slow Content Movement Be on the Horizon?”

“When it comes to planning an effective content marketing strategy, we are inevitably faced with the fact that we live in a world of severely reduced attention spans and instant gratification.”

This means that all our fast-produced content — blogs, newsletters, tweets, MORE MORE MORE — may be shooting us in the collective foot.

Instead of quantity, how about quality? Some of you will respond that content marketers should be doing both, and ideally yes. Perhaps. Certainly, you need to do enough so that your target market recognizes you. However, Nicola writes: “Marketers are constantly trying to come up with winning ideas that will make their content marketing strategies shine. They’re expected to deliver these continuous strokes of brilliance faster than they did before in shorter time periods. But what if we’re missing something here? What if the answer isn’t faster content? What if it’s just the opposite?”

She suggests that we start by making time for bigger, slower content ideas. Planning time is hard to come by when you’re looking at your dizzy content schedule. Give yourself a break and discuss longer-term content ideas, not just the daily grind. It’s harder to get to long-form because it takes more time and thought, but long-form may ultimately garner far more attention than a wagon load of weightless “content.”

Slow down, think deeply. Think in depth. What is the content’s significance? Why does it matter? Frankly, if “getting more page views” is your one and only goal, you’re missing the long game point.

Finally, she suggests that you knock off the multi-tasking. Personally, I have no idea how multi-tasking became a badge of honor. It’s OK for shallow one-off actions, not so good for thoughtful content that gets the world’s attention.

9-Tiered Content Marketing Plan for Small Teams and Solo Pros

Neil Patel suggests a 9-tiered content marketing procedure that builds a solid foundation for a content marketing initiative. He’s assuming a content marketing team, but even solo pros need a plan and can take advantage of this one with some adjustments.

#1 Set a tiered goal

“Set quantifiable annual, quarterly, and monthly progress goals so everyone knows what to aim for.”

Neil insists that one article per day and at least 3 posts are the dead minimum, but that’s more suited to large content teams than SMB or solo pros. Nevertheless, setting concrete objectives is a must for content teams of any size. (Including 1.)

#2. Quantify ROI

“The only way to know something isn’t working is to quantify it. Lead generation and sales should increase by a certain percentage by the end of the year. Any increases to the content marketing budget should reflect an appropriate lead generation and sales increase by the end of that fiscal year.”

Agreed. No matter how large or small those sales and leads are, the main thing to track your percentages. If you spent more money and/or time on content marketing, then your increase should reflect that.

#3. Determine content purpose.

“Before you create content, you need to identify the reason for the content. The internal focus ultimately is to drive sales, but content marketing isn’t salesy content.”

There are two kinds of content that fit in here: evergreen content that lasts for a long time and topical the gets a lot of attention at the point of publishing. They’re both important: evergreen content can get you positive attention for months, even years to come. Topical gets you focused attention right when everyone is paying attention to the topic.

#4. Create an editorial calendar.

“To keep things running smoothly, it’s important to create a monthly and annual editorial calendar. Use it to work ahead and understand ultimate deadlines while working on multiple projects.”

I could not agree more. As a team or solo professional, you’ll find yourself floundering if you don’t have a working editorial calendar. Don’t do what I used to though create aggressive editorial calendar in the mistaken belief just because it was on the calendar, I was automatically going to do it. Push yourself slightly with the calendar and stick to it, but be very realistic about what you’re really going to do.

#5. Generate clickable titles

“If you used a headline such as ‘Businesses Teaches Helpful Things,’ you’re unlikely to attract many readers. ‘12 Business Lessons from Successful Company Owners’ would draw more clicks.”

It’s very easy to get cynical about numbers. 5 ways to do the wave at football game, or 12 ways to make one billion dollars in 30 days or less. But it’s true that the more practical the headline, the more people are likely to click on it.

#6. Contract writers, editors, and graphic designers

“Once you have an editorial calendar filled, it’s time to hire writers, editors, and graphic designers to execute it.”

Large companies will have some of this staff on hand, although even the largest company works with freelancers. Midsize and SMB businesses are the most likely to hire outside writers for long form content. Solo pros can contract outside writers, although they may be on their own. The important thing is that even if you’re a one-person shop and you’re creating your own content that you do it as efficiently as possible. Understand exactly what your target and objective is for this piece of content. Write it accordingly. Look at attractive designs and apply the simplest and most effective of them to your stuff. Edit the heck out of it. Then release it.

#7. Document procedures and training

Detail the procedures for every job in writing. That way when you expand (or must replace someone), it’s easy to keep the process going.”

This may seem like overkill for SMB and solo pros, but it’s not. You would be amazed how often someone who’s done newsletters, or books, or courses, or blogs, reinvents the wheel because they haven’t written down the process. You might fill a binder where a large digital document with your processes, or you may have a few notes with processes in Evernote. (I half-killed myself writing down procedures until I hit on writing one procedure per note in Evernote, and tagging them “procedure.”) It doesn’t matter how you do it. It just matters you are effectively documenting processes to speed up your time and improve the quality of your production.

#8. Promote and backlink

“There’s no point in publishing content if nobody is promoting it. You can link multiple social media accounts within your content management system to automatically publicize your content as soon as it’s published.”

If you are using marketing automation software, then you’re in like Flint. If you’re not, then simple and inexpensive packages such as HootSuite can help tremendously to schedule and distribute your content across your social media platforms.

#9. Do not sell

“Content marketing is different from marketing content. Everything you do in content marketing should be to educate, entertain, or inform.”

I am not sold on this. I think that content marketing is a subset of marketing content. I do agree that content marketing does not contain hard sells, but is primarily informational and entertaining — always with the goal to get your reader to take action. The ultimate motivation is still making that sale.

The Fyre Festival and Technology Influencers in the Cross-Fire

Most everyone involved in the Fyre Festival is coming in for some well-deserved condemnation.

One of the condemned classes of folks are the influencers. These are the bright and beautiful people who connect modeling and music. Pre-disaster, festival partner Ja Rule was everywhere in social media, as were other influencers — mostly young, wealthy celebrities who are the height of coolness for the young crowd that the Fyre Festival hoped to draw.

We know for sure that one of the Jenner girls (I’m not sure which one because I can’t tell them apart) got $125,000 for mentioning the Fyre Festival on her Instagram account. The other influencers were doubtless paid as well, and most of them have written heartfelt apologies about being misled by the Festival organizers.

Tech B2B and the Fyre Festival?

What does the Fyre Festival and technology B2B have in common? On the surface, not much. Few of us look like the supermodels/Fyre Festival influencers whose apologies are all over social media. And beyond unfortunate Booth Babe incidents, B2B conventions have little in common with the Fyre Festival.  The conventions generally happen at hotels and not ragged tent cities, and the food is a notch higher than the cheese sandwiches and wilted lettuce that the Festival offered.

But appearance is not the point. The commonality is influencers. Influencers in any industry— fashion, music, literature, entertainment, business, technology—have a responsibility to mean what they’re saying. Influencers have a reputation to maintain and they have a responsibility. And they put their own influence at risk if they blow it.

Why Influencers Walk the Rope

These days, books are coming out every other week and talk about business influencers. How to be buds with an influencer. How to guest post on an influencer blog. How to be an influencer in six easy lessons. Whatever.

The attention is understandable. Influencers are the keys to the kingdom. They are the ones who suggest certain products and companies. They are the ones who study (or create) industry trends. Guest blogging on their blogs can make or break a reputation.

Please do not get me wrong. I have nothing against technology influencers. (Or rap-loving models for that matter.) For the most part, influencers are smart, capable, and well-meaning men and women, and I benefit from their insight. We all do.

But there is a darker side to being an influencer. One is lending their reputation to a product or person that they don’t know much about, and really should have. Witness the Fyre Festival mess. And when you’re an influencer everyone knows your business – like the charmingly-named PewPieDie, a YouTube star whose Disney deal just blew up thanks to his anti-Semitic comments.

There is also the dark side of believing your own press. This happened several years ago but serves as an excellent object lesson. I know someone who was a top technology industry analyst. This man was an influencer among influencers, and he let his reputation go to his head and set up shop there. When he moved from his analyst firm to a senior position on the vendor side, he still believed his own press. And he failed. Big time. He lost his influencer status and never got it back.

Anyone who is at the forefront of their profession can use their influencer status for good or, as Maxwell Smart would say, for badness. Influencers have the responsibility to be smart about their recommendations and fair in their gate-keeping. We’re all people here, and influencers are in a position to help — or hurt. Choose wisely.


Content Marketing and Brain Freeze

It’s happened again. It’s time to Get Serious About Your Content Marketing, and you settle down to be Quite Serious.

And your brain freezes. You think you have nothing to say to anyone about anything. So once again content marketing goes by the wayside in favor of stuff that you know how to do — and that everyone expects you to do anyway.

So how do you produce content that is interesting and practical for your customers, and do it on a regular basis? First, and I cannot say this enough, is to know what they care about. When I was in IT at Avery Dennison, we used HP servers and storage. One day a sales rep from Sun came in to talk to us. He told us how great his networking was because was from Sun. We will be so very happy because Sun made it. When we told him that we were happy with HP and Sun wasn’t offering anything new, he blinked. I think he honestly did not understand what you were saying. His response was, “But it’s Sun.” He didn’t sell to us because we didn’t have a pain point he could meet. We didn’t have anything against Sun, but it wasn’t going to do us any favors.

So, know your customers’ pain points. Then start looking around, because you probably have more content than you think you do. And you can produce new content more easily than you think you can. (Note: Before you create content, look to see what your existing content is and where your gaps are. Look here for my simple gap analysis worksheet.)

3 Quick and Pretty Easy Ideas

  • Start with the case study. Most businesses have them. But don’t stop with the regular 1 to 2-page customer success studies. Create a YouTube video about the study. If you can interview your client, so much the better. If can’t, then do it yourself by describing the issue, the solution, and how you can repeat your solution for new clients. Write a blog about it and link to the case study and the video. Viola, you have several pieces of new content.
  • If you have a large enough and engaged enough customer base — or if you have access to a good size group such as a LinkedIn group — then create an interesting survey. Keep it short and lively. Then turn the results into a report. Once again, create a video about the results and consider turning the survey results into different formats like a presentation or Infographic.
  • Speaking of videos, not every video has to be an Oscar-winning masterpiece. They should have decent production values. Fortunately, that doesn’t take much these days. Decent studio lighting, a good camera and clear sound, and a speaker who comes across well on camera will do the trick. And if you have employees, do video spots. Talk to them about what they do, and how what they do benefits their customers. Some of these men and women will surprise you with their passion for making their customers’ lives better.