Crisis PR Lessons From The Iowa Caucus

As every politics fan knows, the Iowa caucuses mark the official start of voting in a given election year. Because of its first-in-the-nation status and a quaint, complicated caucus system (or maybe in spite of it), Iowa has an outsize impact on news and social media coverage.

Newspapers camp out there, journalists embed with campaigns, and the cable news shows bring on more pundits and plan hours of airtime in anticipation of a newsworthy outcome.

This year’s outcome for the Democratic caucus was newsworthy, all right, but not in the way Iowans hoped. Results were expected Monday evening, but two days after caucus night, we don’t have complete results. After months of buildup and millions spent on ads, appearances, canvassing and other politicking in the state, caucus day ended with no clear winner and many questions. As political scandals go, it’s not salacious. It may not even be particularly damaging to any candidate, although that’s arguable. But it’s definitely a mess. And poor communications by the Iowa Democratic party made it worse than it needed to be. It’s a classic case of what not to do in a crisis situation.

What went wrong?

Plenty. For the first time, the party chose to produce three sets of results: the totals for the first-round picks by caucusgoers; totals after a second round or “alignment” where supporters non-viable candidates go to a second choice; and the total number of delegates earned (technically “State Delegate Equivalents”) for each candidate. It was an ambitious undertaking for what was already a complicated process. Apparently precinct captains planned to use an app to communicate their totals to headquarters quickly and efficiently, but it wasn’t fully tested and wasn’t working properly. There didn’t seem to be a good backup plan, phones were jammed, and the things went downhill from there.

The primary failure was clearly operational. Even the most brilliant crisis response wouldn’t have solved the problem, yet it could have ameliorated some of the resulting coverage and reputation damage. Here’s where Iowa officials ran afoul of the crisis PR playbook.

Get in front of the story

When things go wrong, it helps to get in front of the story. Ideally, you offer concrete information about an unfolding situation. But when that’s not possible, it’s better to tell media and stakeholders when to expect the information rather than leaving them hanging. As time dragged on Monday evening, cable news stations were left with hours of airtime to fill and virtually no updates. Nature hates a vacuum, and so does the media. There was speculation about what was causing the delay, some of it irresponsible. When the party eventually told the press that full results would not be coming that evening, no one was happy, but at least media outlets could shift gears and plan accordingly.

Be careful and sensitive with language

The Iowa Democratic party initially communicated about the situation as delays became apparent Monday evening. The language was vague and not particularly reassuring. The first statement blamed the delay on “quality control checks” – strange, sanitized words that suggest a factory assembly line or bureaucratic doublespeak. They did not inspire confidence. A later comment specified “inconsistencies” in vote totals, which raised more questions than it answered and to some overwrought political junkies, implied shenanigans. Finally the party communications director released a statement that explained the problem with greater clarity and described the failure of the app.

“This is simply a reporting issue. The app did not go down, and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results.”

The statement was better than earlier comments, but it came very late and was short on specifics. It focused a bit too much on what the problem wasn’t, rather than what was  happening and when the information would be available.

Make a trusted spokesperson accessible

Even when concrete information is lacking, access to an organization representative can engender trust with media and stakeholders. This is why crisis experts counsel clients that the designated crisis manager and the media spokesperson should never be one and the same. When the stuff hits the fan, phones are blowing up and rumors are flying, the crisis team is firefighting and cannot give updates. It helps to have a dedicated person with inside access offer regular bulletins, even if those updates are just about future updates.

There’s also education to be done. At a time when election security is paramount, the Iowa officials missed a chance to inform less sophisticated audiences about how truly hack-proof the caucus process is. It’s not like a primary, and it doesn’t happen through technology. It happens out in the open, precinct captains record everything on paper, and the votes are verifiable. I didn’t fully realize that until I happened to hear a third-party pundit explain the process on a radio show. The technical glitch was maddening, sure, but it wasn’t a security threat. Yet I don’t think anyone we heard that from the party itself.

Apologize

Another classic step to clarify and improve a crisis situation is to accept or assign responsibility for the problem and apologize. In the Iowa case, some responsibility rests with the app developers, but ultimately it’s with the caucus organizers in the state party. A Tuesday afternoon statement from Iowa Democratic party head Troy Price did offer an on-air apology, calling the delay “unacceptable.” Price hit a few defensive notes, but I give him points for the sincerity of his delivery and his messaging around process’s importance and the preservation of data security and accuracy.

“My number one priority has been on ensuring the accuracy and the integrity of the results and we have been working all night to be in the best position to report results. The bottom line is we hit a stumbling block on the back end of the reporting of the data but . . . we know this data is accurate.”

Describe the fix

Typically a crisis situation begins to resolve when the responsible entities announce how they will remedy the issue. A faulty product is recalled and redesigned, an executive is fired, or damages paid. In this instance, the state party chairman promised a thorough investigation into the matter, which is the appropriate first step. We may also see his resignation once the dust settles. That would show that someone is taking responsibility and enable the party and the process to move on, at least theoretically. But the true fix may well be a change in the Democratic primary calendar. Of course, no one from the party is saying it out loud, but Iowa’s first-place status is in jeopardy, and there’s probably nothing the state can do about that.

Corporate Reputation And The Whistleblower Culture

As a PR person, I’ve always been fascinated by the complicated psychology of whistleblowing. Lately it seems particularly relevant. Tom Mueller, who interviewed over 200 corporate whistleblowers for his book Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud, proclaims this “the age of the whistleblower.”

Look at Theranos – the health tech unicorn that crashed and burned just two years ago. Its implosion was in large part due to first-rate reporting by The Wall Street Journal‘s John Carreyrou, yet Carreyrou was originally tipped off to irregularities by a company insider. Just two months ago, luggage company Away grappled with reputation stumbles after employees shared internal messages that unpacked a punitive workplace culture.

But the most far-reaching recent example is that of Susan Fowler. Her new memoir, Whistleblower, recounts the events that drove her to document the harassment and toxicity she experienced in the now-legendary blog post about her “very, very strange year at Uber.”

So, what’s behind the whistleblowing trend, and what does it mean?

A mixed legacy

The best outcome from Fowler’s experience, and those who endured similar treatment, would be what Stephen Levy of Wired calls “the end of the high-performer defense.” In many companies, especially high-growth technology businesses, there have been different standards of behavior for certain employees. When Fowler originally complained to Uber’s HR department about inappropriate overtures from her manager, her experience was dismissed because the manager was, you guessed it, a “high performer.” Since the Fowler memo, Big Tech players like Uber and Google will think twice about excusing inexcusable behavior or implicitly rewarding it with rich exit packages even when the bad actors are let go.

Yet Fowler’s experience is a cautionary tale. Sure, she landed on the cover of Time and she’s now an opinion editor at The New York Times. Her memoir will be made into a movie. Things have worked out fine for her; in fact, a cynic might say she’s better off after what happened. But as she tells it, the consequences of her disclosure were scarier than anything most of us could imagine. She has been threatened, smeared, investigated, and shunned by people who know better. For an even uglier example, just look at the rancor toward the (officially) unnamed individual whose report ultimately triggered the impeachment of the president. There is no guarantee of protection for any whistleblower.

When culture is a barrier

Blowing the whistle sends a chill through an organization. What’s more, a strong corporate culture, rightly prized by high-growth organizations, can inhibit healthy disclosure of wrongdoing. Exposure of unethical activities can have bad repercussions for lots of employees, not just those directly involved. Rarely does a whistleblower story involve just one individual. There are those who actively participated as well as those who knew or should have known. Often there are employees who received complaints directly or who heard about them. Where does accountability begin and end? Then there are those responsible for risk-management processes that failed. Finally, there are negative consequences for employees who weren’t involved at all – from cocktail-party shame to staff layoffs.

The key, of course, is for senior managers to model ethical behavior, and to cultivate an environment of full transparency. That’s easier said than done.

A red flag about institutions

In an essay about the most famous whistleblower of all time, Edward Snowden, Jill Lepore reminds us that the prevalence of whistleblowing today isn’t a good sign. It’s a red flag. It means that systems are failing. It’s an “indictment of an entire system of accountability.” Lepore writes, “Businesses have regulations, compliance departments, and inspections. Whistle-blowing is necessary when these safeguards fail.”

So what can businesses do to protect themselves, and what can we do as a culture?

A striking commonality among whistleblowers is their persistence. According to the experts, most report problems or abuses to those in charge, and often repeatedly. They don’t usually turn to the press before exhausting other avenues.

Many companies launch investigations and, where warranted, negotiate compensation in exchange for an NDA signed by the injured party. But NDAs don’t solve the cultural problem, and lately, they don’t even ensure confidentiality. Stories about NDAs often leak, even when the details stay private. It’s not a good look – just ask WeWork or Bloomberg LP. Employers should be focused on proactive action to prevent unethical behavior in the workplace rather than taking a reactive approach that can backfire.

Like any other risk management tool, a whistleblower policy is only as good as its practice. It must send a message to stakeholders that the organization is committed to rooting out illegal or unethical behavior, and that retaliation will not be tolerated. In some cases, outsourcing is part of the answer. Anonymity helps, of course. If complainants can make reports anonymously to an outside firm, it allows for more objective reporting and the chance to correct wrongdoing without public exposure. The only cure for the epidemic of whistleblowing may be more of it.

Any crisis manager knows that it’s easier to prevent a reputation crisis than to clean it up after the fact. The same is true for a whistleblower policy. A business should encourage whistleblowing within its walls, because the consequences of not doing so will be far worse. The internal and external mantra needs to be: If you see something, say something.

6 PR Lessons From Bloomberg’s Awful Debate Performance

One of the top news stories last week was the debut of billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the ninth Democratic presidential debate. Following a $130 million ad blitz, it was Bloomberg’s first time qualifying for a debate since he announced his candidacy late last year.

To say the rust was evident would be an understatement. Per CNBC, “Bloomberg’s performance in his first Democratic presidential debate was so bad that it may be the ‘beginning of the end’ for his already late-starting campaign.” According to The New York Times, “Bloomberg’s debate performance on Wednesday proved so lackluster that both supporters and rivals counted themselves taken aback, leaving his campaign more rattled than at any point.”

I also had harsh words for Bloomberg. Watching him implode on stage, I couldn’t help but think of what we in public relations try to do for our clients. With that in mind, here are six PR lessons from Bloomberg’s debate performance that are applicable to any brand or business.

First impressions matter

Whether you’re on stage at a conference or being interviewed by a journalist, in PR, first impressions matter. For any opportunity, you generally get one bite at the apple. If you fail to deliver, you might not be invited back, or in PR terms, maybe your interview doesn’t convert to a story.

Bloomberg, by all accounts, made a bad first impression to millions of viewers. He fumbled basic questions and seemed totally dispassionate. According to Morning Consult, immediately after the debate, the share of voters who said Bloomberg was their first choice for the Democratic nomination fell three percentage points. Meanwhile, his net favorability dropped by 20 points.

Tell your story

In PR, your story is everything. One of the best examples of storytelling is by footwear company TOMS. TOMS was created after the founder visited Argentina and saw children growing up without shoes. He started TOMS to help, matching every pair of purchased shoes with a new pair for kids in need. TOMS’s narrative has all the tenets of a great story. It’s simple, clear and powerful.

One of Bloomberg’s biggest failures of the debate was his lack of a clear and resonant story around his candidacy. He has billed himself as a proud moderate, positioning his candidacy against left-leaning competitors like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But, outside of his opening statement, that message wasn’t communicated or reinforced.

Earned media beats paid

Bloomberg has dramatically increased his visibility in Super Tuesday states with a $400 million advertising blitz, but that will only get him so far. Media coverage — often driven through a top PR firm — is often better than paid advertising, or at least, advertising alone isn’t enough. Keep in mind that 41 percent of consumers say they just don’t trust advertising, with three-fourths trying to avoid it altogether. Paid placements don’t have the credibility of a trusted news publication, for example, that covers a product or service. The latter is “earned.” It’s not paid for.

Bloomberg’s campaign is learning that the hard way. Despite the fact that he has aggressively outspent the rest of the field on ads, his debate performance, and the endless, negative media coverage around it, will ultimately be what shapes the overall perception of the Bloomberg candidacy.

Be prepared

In PR, preparation is critical. Preparing for an interview, for example, means reading recent articles by that journalist and understanding the tone and tenor of their coverage. This helps you evaluate the direction they might take and anticipate potential (tough) questions.

Reports indicate that Bloomberg’s staff prepared him for the debate. But he bungled obvious questions about stop-and-frisk and sexual harassment that everyone knew was coming. This could speak to the quality of his routine, whether or not he was receiving candid feedback, or the time commitment he made to preparation.

Speak!

From media interviews to panel discussions, delivering on a PR opportunity requires one fundamental thing — speaking. If you don’t speak up or offer your perspective proactively, you won’t stand out and will likely be minimized.

Despite a barrage of attacks against him, Bloomberg actually spoke the least of the six debaters, with just 13:02 minutes of speaking time. Of course, debate participants are at the mercy of the moderators, but here, too, experience helps. In failing to own a bigger piece of the overall discussion, Bloomberg missed opportunities on his first outing.

Humility helps

From a PR perspective, when a brand makes a mistake, humbly acknowledging it is the best way to move on. KFC’s 2018 FCK ad campaign following a chicken shortage is a good example of that, with the company using humility and humor to rebuild confidence among customers.

To Bloomberg’s credit, he seems to understand this.  “So how was your night last night?” the former NYC Mayor joked the next morning at a campaign stop in Utah. Rather than sticking his head in the sand and pretending the performance never happened, Bloomberg is admitting defeat and attempting to move on. That’s the right move.

These are my top PR takeaways from Bloomberg’s debate performance. What did I miss? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @chrisharihar.

20 Cybersecurity Reporters To Follow On Twitter

Twitter is an essential resource for PR pros whose job requires them to stay up-to-date and engaged with reporters across different sectors. For us, one of those is cybersecurity. With data breaches happening frequently, data privacy making news, and the presidential election looming, security is the hottest of hot topics.

How can PR specialists stay abreast of security news to create opportunities for client companies? Start by following these 20 cybersecurity reporters. This is in no particular order and is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good resource for anyone looking to learn more about cybersecurity.

Great Twitter Follows For Cybersecurity Geeks

(TechCrunch) Zack Whittaker | @zackwhittaker

Formerly of ZDNet, Zack is the security editor at TechCrunch. He’s a known name in security and gives great insight into many of the ongoing and current issues in the space. One of his more notable recent stories read was his piece last year on shutting down a massive child abuse website.

(ZDNet) Catalin Cimpanu | @campuscodi

Catalin is ZDNet’s cybersecurity reporter. Previously a news editor at Bleeping Computer, he’s been covering the security space for a while and is a go-to source for any breaking stories. As a highly active tweeter, he’s a great resource for large-scale stories as well as narrow technical aspects of the sector.

(Bloomberg) William Turton | @WilliamTurton

William joined Bloomberg as a cybersecurity reporter last summer. He’s a must-follow for anyone looking to learn more about security, big tech and security implications related towards the top trending stories globally.

(Politico) Eric Geller | @ericgeller

Eric Geller is a security reporter at Politico. He covers security issues related to the White House, government policy and election security, along with breaking news. He’s extremely active on twitter, acting as a great source for general political news and the occasional meme.

(Motherboard/Vice) Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai | @lorenzofb

Lorenzo is a go-to source for any and all happenings in cybersecurity. He’s been a writer for Motherboard Vice for almost five years and previously had a two-year tenure at Mashable. Along with security, Lorenzo also covers tech general tech industry matters.

(Motherboard/Vice) Joseph Cox | @josephfcox

Joseph is a security writer at Motherboard Vice, covering things like hacking and cyber crime. His stories comprise a range of topics impacting security such as hacking, data protection and breaking news.

(CNET) Laura Hautala | @lhautala

Laura covers cybersecurity and privacy with a consumer focus at CNET. She does great work in viewing common security issues through the lens of the customer, and framing them towards customers, often covering topics on the internet and database security.

(Cyberscoop) Shannon Vavra | @shanvav

Formerly of Axios, Shannon has been covering security at Cyberscoop for almost a year now, specifically focusing on the NSA, cyber command and cyberwarfare. Her feed is made up of terrific security stories and some politics news.

(Dark Reading) Kelly Jackson Higgins | @kjhiggins

Kelly is the executive editor at Dark Reading, a top cybersecurity trade publication. Although she doesn’t tweet too often, her stories and contributions to Dark Reading are essential to be current on happenings in the security space.

(Forbes) Davey Winder | @happygeek

Davey is a top contributor to Forbes’ cybersecurity section. His stories detail aspects of the threat landscape and cover data breaches with some frequency. He also contributes to SC Mag and InfoSecurity Mag.

(MIT Tech Review) Patrick Howell O’Neill | @HowellONeill

Patrick joined MIT Tech Review to cover security in July of last year. His coverage touches on the regular topics of hacking, along with a political perspective on tech issues.

(NYT) Sheera Frenkel | @sheeraf

Sheera is a cybersecurity reporter at NYT and covers trending topics like the upcoming election, Big Tech and large data breaches. She previously spent time at Buzzfeed covering the Middle East and cybersecurity.

(NYT) Nicole Perlroth | @nicoleperlroth

Nicole has been with NYT for over eight years covering the security space. She investigates trends in security, sometimes with a focus on national security and significant crimes in the US and abroad.

(WIRED) Andy Greenberg | @a_greenberg

At WIRED Andy is a dedicated cybersecurity writer. Previously at Forbes, he takes an investigative bent and has won multiple awards over his 14 years of reporting. He also has a book called SANDWORM: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers.

(WIRED) Lily Hay Newman | @lilyhnewman

Lily is another of WIRED’s top security writers covering digital privacy, information security and hacking. Over the four years she’s been with the publication, Lily has covered breaking news and ongoing stories about many of the issues that plague technology. Although not the most active on twitter, she’s an essential follow for the latest happenings in security.

(Washington Post) Ellen Nakashima | @nakashimae

Ellen has been with the Washington Post since 1995 and covers national security. Her longevity and knowledge of security issues, especially on elections, makes her an unbelievable resource for knowledge and perspective on issues related to government affairs.

(Washington Post) Joseph Marks | @Joseph_Marks_

Joseph writes the Cybersecurity 202, a daily newsletter for the Washington Post that covers all major news security professionals should know.This is the first newsletter I check out every morning to make sure I’m up-to-date and it’s an invaluable resource.

(Axios) Scott Rosenberg | @scottros

At Axios, Scott is the main reporter for cybersecurity. He also covers a wide array of topics related to technology and government affairs. Scott publishes the Axios Codebook on a weekly basis, which is an essential read.

(CNBC) Kate Fazzini | @KateFazzini

Kate is the lead cybersecurity reporter at CNBC. Previously at WSJ, she often participates in CNBC broadcast segments as the network’s go-to cybersecurity expert and is a must-follow to better understand top stories within the greater security space.

(Politico) Tim Starks | @timstarks

At Politico, Tim serves as a dedicated cybersecurity reporter. Along with his usual reporting, he publishes POLITICO’s Morning Cybersecurity newsletter covering the latest news in cybersecurity policy and politics.

8 Tips For Pitching B2B Tech Stories

For top B2B PR firms, approaching reporters and tech influencers carries a great deal of responsibility. You want to make sure you’re representing both your agency and your client well, and a top-notch pitch is the best way to do it. There are some small measures that can maximize efforts to B2B technology media. Here are eight tips and tricks to form positive relationships with top B2B tech reporters and influencers to get a story.

Make it short. Then make it shorter. 

When pitching top tech reporters, like most media, it’s best to be short and sweet. This starts with subject lines, which should be quick and punchy. The pitches should ideally be under 100 words and to the point. It’s also helpful to avoid marketing jargon. If a reporter opens your email and sees a lot of text, they may not even read it. They get hundreds of email pitches each day and are under no obligation to look at yours. So before creating a pitch, understand exactly what the news is and how you want to package it to catch their immediate attention.

Pitch the right people 

Pitching the right media gives you credibility and ensures you aren’t wasting the client’s time. For instance, you wouldn’t pitch an ad tech reporter a story about cybersecurity. They’re two completely different verticals, and pitching the wrong beat shows that you didn’t do your research. As a result, they will likely pass on your client, and also ignore other pitches from you in the future, even if they’re actually relevant.

Sell your client deftly

While the topic you’re engaging on is the meat of a pitch (and what’s likely to get a journalist interested), it’s important to invoke your client in a way that feels organic to the offer. So the best pitches will both be an interesting topic worth covering, as well as offering a credible spokesperson to speak to that topic. It’s this balance that will put you across the finish line. A simple offer to have coffee with the founder of a hot new technology company just isn’t enough.

Know the outlet’s audience

Obviously you want to know about the reporter you’re pitching. But understanding the outlet’s audience will assure you’re sharing something of interest to their readers. For example, you know that TechCrunch often covers general B2B tech, so it’s unlikely that their readers would care about a new gaming technology on the horizon. Take the time to read various writers (on top of who you’re pitching) at a given publication. This will give you insight into the types of people who are likely to read the story that you’re pitching.

Follow-up — but don’t nag

There’s a chance a reporter will miss your email entirely, so it’s important to follow up with them. It’s also not uncommon to get a response on the second try. After the third try, however, it’s best to move on to other targets, as they’re likely not interested. When following up, note that there’s a difference between a friendly reminder and being overly aggressive. So choose your words and tone wisely, and keep in mind that any sort of aggression could turn off the reporter.

Always have a call-to-action

At the end of your pitch, there should always be a call to action that the reporters can respond to — whether it’s “see below for the full release” or “let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch for an interview”. Prompting the reporter to take some kind of action puts the “next steps” in their head and makes the whole thing worth it. If a CTA is missing from a pitch, you’re not giving the recipient any reason to respond.

Pay attention to details 

Little details can make or break a pitch. Since reporters and editors often have a keen eye, something as minor as a spelling or grammatical error (or something as big as getting a date/time/fact wrong) could turn them off entirely. I like to send a quick note of thanks after a story is published. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in building a relationship.

Be flexible 

Everyone has busy schedules. Many top B2B tech reporters interview multiple people each day for a wide range of stories. If you pitch a specific angle, but then the reporter comes back and says they’re working on a story about a different topic, it’s up to you to determine if there’s a way to make it relevant to your client. Pitches are basically a way in the door. If the reporter has other ideas for a story angle, be open-minded. There’s often a way to turn it into a win for your client.

5 Cloud Technology Trends For 2020

AI and machine learning might be the crowd favorite for most disruptive technologies in 2020. They also offer lots of opportunity for tech PR teams. But there’s an overlooked bit of B2B tech that’s quietly poised to shake things up: the cloud.

From data management to document storage, the outlook is strong with a high chance of growth for cloud tech in the coming months. The technology is a top business tool, so any sort of change can have a huge impact on the way organizations operate.

Customer needs and technology advances are coming together in a perfect storm of innovation for cloud providers and those tasked with promoting the key players in the space.

With that in mind, here are five key cloud computing predictions that present content and PR coverage opportunities in the year ahead.

Customer experience is king

Companies who ignore or deprioritize customer experience (CX) do so at their peril. Today brand customers want an experience that is as frictionless as possible. And because data stored in the cloud is accessible at any time regardless of location, it’s a key resource for enabling seamless customer experiences. For example, we’ve all had to redo an online shopping order after being interrupted mid-purchase. However, thanks to the cloud, retailers can now allow customers to start a purchase on one device and then finish doing so on another without any lost progress — just log back in and pick-up where you left off. These types of customer-centric innovations are helping redefine customer satisfaction and should be an interesting trend for PR campaigns to include on behalf of cloud data clients and their customers.

The hybrid cloud expands

Each company has its own specific set of needs and preferences, so a “cloud only” or “on-premise only” approach may not work for many. With this in mind, more hybrid cloud options — which combine on-premise, private and public cloud technology — are cropping up. This allows brands to tailor their internal IT infrastructure to suit their own needs instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all solution that may not deliver the best results or given them the flexibility they are looking for. There are real opportunities for hybrid providers to promote their advantages through creative storytelling.

Privacy concerns drive open source cloud

With more businesses looking to gain greater control over their data, open source cloud technology such as NextCloud or ownCloud could be set to go mainstream. Having centralized data has its benefits. Yet given several high-profile data breaches and greater scrutiny over personal data usage by brands, open source cloud service providers give users more control over their data and who has access to it. This more decentralized approach has become more popular with individuals and smaller businesses and if growth continues, 2020 could be the year when it goes mainstream. The key players here would be smart to stay ahead of security and data privacy issues so they can jump in and make the case when media are covering breaking news around hot-button issues.

Competition for talent

As with many technology sectors, trying to find enough qualified candidates to fill cloud openings is proving to be incredibly challenging for businesses today. In fact, 90 percent of organizations have said that they lack the skills needed in multiple cloud disciplines. This is causing not only greater investment in recruitment but also internal training and talent retention efforts. It’s a driver of many workplace branding campaigns among cloud companies, as well as a fruitful story for tech PR generalists.

A pause in consolidation?

2019 saw noteworthy instances of consolidation among top players, including IBM, VMWare, Microsoft and others. And given the public cloud space alone is set to grow 21 percent annually until 2021, cloud computing continues to be one of the most exciting spaces in technology. Yet, with many of the smaller players being snapped up already by the aforementioned power players above, there may not be much more room for mergers and acquisitions, so a slowdown in cloud consolidation could finally be on the horizon in 2020. That would be an overall boon to communicators and bring welcome stability to the sector.

Are there any cloud trends you are keeping an eye on during 2020? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter at @CrenshawComm.