From Porn-Blocker to Cybercrime Fighter

Case Study

Websense – Filtering Websense Perception

Case Study PDF

2012 BRONZE ANVIL AWARD OF COMMENDATION WINNER Business-to-Business PR

Problem
Websense, Inc. evolved its product portfolio from a simple URL filter product and became a global market leader in unified web, data, and email content security. However, even with an award-winning advanced security product suite, the public (and customer) perception of the organization was dominated by a legacy view as “porn blocking” software. Websense had become pigeonholed for its legacy web filtering products, which was costing millions of dollars in lost business against competitors. In 2011, the Websense public relations (PR) team and MIX PR changed that perception through extensive brand research, planning, and aggressive B2B media relations.

Research Planning
To research Websense brand perception, MIX PR conducted a blind survey of 100 senior CISO, CISOs, vice presidents, and directors of information security in Q1 2011. When asked what Websense provided, 54 percent didn’t know and 21 percent said filtering. To further understand what messaging resonated with the target audience, the survey also asked what top three attributes respondents thought defined a content security vendor. Respondents said effectiveness, proven, and reliability. The survey also asked where respondents went for their news, confirming media relations should focus on business technology outlets like Network World, CIO, and CSO.

This research was the foundation for Q1 2011 public relations planning. After the research, PR created a plan to conduct aggressive media relations and target top IT trade publications. This plan included pitching B2B outlets specific stories that focused on Websense content security news. The target audiences included reporters from top-tier IT security media outlets, top business publications, and top DMA dailies—because their coverage would ultimately impact the public perception of Websense across the widest audiences. PR also counseled spokespeople to weave in the effectiveness, proven, and reliability messages during interviews. As part of the planning, measurable objectives were established:

To shift the perception of Websense from a URL filtering company to a content security company by using the B2B media outreach relations as a tactic

Increase the number of articles that mentioned the Websense flagship product (TRITON), which supported the message that Websense is more than a URL filtering company and is a security leader

Increase PR-driven traffic to the Websense website by encouraging B2B reporters to include links to the Websense website, which reinforces the message that Websense is a content security leader

Creativity & Quality
To change perception from URL filtering to content security, MIX PR began a lengthy, multi-pronged proactive B2B media relations campaign. The campaign began with creating a completely new set of core messages to be included in every piece of collateral development and media interaction, drawing attention to Websense’s overarching security offerings. The Websense PR team managed all media outreach for each campaign by developing brand awareness, building trends, and creating issues to proactively pitch.

To generate product news, MIX PR pitched numerous stories on older security technology shortcomings and positioned Websense TRITON as the most effective, proven, and reliable solution. B2B media outlets covered that story as well as creative news angles such as: commissioning independent research on social media risks; alerting the public about new Internet threats and how to stay safe online; a global Facebook partnership (affecting all 750 million users); trends in cybercrime activity; top security predictions; and Websense’s anti-censorship positioning.

Results
As a result of the Websense PR team’s and MIX PR’s efforts, all B2B media goals were achieved—and perceptions noticeably shifted with national audiences from “filtering” to an established content security leader. In November 2011, a second brand survey was conducted with 100 respondents with the same profile as Q1 2011. Positive responses identifying Websense as providing web, email, or data security increased 30 percent. There was also a 28 decrease in those who said they didn’t know what Websense did or identified “filtering.”

  • In 2011, Websense media coverage increased by 42 percent (from 709 articles in 2010 to 1,009 in 2011).
  • Websense TRITON media coverage increased by more than 1,000 percent (from seven articles in 2010 to 70 articles in 2011).
  • Outlets included many B2B and top business outlets: CIO, CRN, CSO, eWeek, Fast Company, MSNBC, Network World, Search Security, Tech Crunch, TIME, Venture Beat, Wall Street Journal, WIRED, ZDNet, and more.
  • B2B media outreach also contributed to a 41 percent increase in PR-driven Websense website traffic.

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