Best practice from 6Degrees PR
Safety on the web, especially when it comes to children and families, has become one of the most hotly debated media topics in the past few years. As more and more people use the web, the subject remains high on the news agenda – and for good reason.
According to statistics, over 30,000 new porn web pages are added every single day, while a Harris poll showed that 94 per cent of men and 95 per cent of women had visited a porn site by accident when surfing the web!
Web searches in particular look benign – Internet users rarely think before clicking on a chosen web site, but in fact one in five Internet search results contains either malware (malicious software) or offensive or illegal content.
For web security firm, ScanSafe, this was enough for them to launch a free and easy to use web tool called Scandoo, which acts like a set of web 'traffic lights' guiding you safely through searches – with a green tick for safe, amber question mark for caution and a red cross for danger.
For ScanSafe, the real key to launching Scandoo was reaching techy and gadget writers first, despite its obvious consumer appeal. The firm did not want to be seen as officially launching the service to consumers at this stage.
Still in beta testing and undergoing refinement, Scandoo had to be targeted at the enthusiasts – so they would write about the product, but also feed back ideas for improving it and encouraging readers to do the same.
The Six Degrees team was keen to make the launch as ‘collaborative’ as possible, to echo the true sense of web-based collaboration. An important part of this was recognising the all-important blogging community – influential in spreading the word.
ScanSafe was also aware that a key competitor had acquired a similar service and was poised to bring out its own offering. The company was keen to be ahead of the pack.
Six Degrees agreed to give the launch an 'underground feel'. The team decided to focus on ‘those in the know’, including bloggers, tech-savvy writers, PC journalists, gadgets freaks, as well as the regular ‘watchers’ who understood web security.
The plan was to create a buzz around the Scandoo name. Scandoo was to become a name and brand in itself, with a strong visual identity. The site is extremely user-friendly, minimalist, echoing the look and feel of some of the search engines it uses like Google – and the team wanted to use this to its fullest potential.
The strategy during the early stages of the launch was to 'tip off' key writers in phone conversations, and on email and Skype chats – informal conversations along the lines of ‘did you know…’ or ‘have you heard about the latest web tool…’. Early targets were Nigel Powell of Red Ferret Journal, Stuart Miles at Pocket-Lint, David Walker at Tech Digest and Mark Ward at BBC News Online, using their influence to spread the Scandoo story.
The story was then announced to technical online and print media. FAQ and background documents provided good back-up for the PR team and spokespeople to ensure they stayed on message, especially when it came to discussing competitive offerings. Examples of web search terms that the press could try out, for example the word ‘toys’ or ‘dolls’ revealed sex sites in the top four results, were also given out.
Scandoo received more than 10m hits from around the world, with 80 per cent of users originating from North America (42%) and Europe (38%). In media relations terms over 50 press articles appeared, three on BBC News Online. BBC News Online’s, Mark Ward has recommended it in interviews on ‘You & Yours’ and local BBC radio stations.
BBC News Online and Pocket-Lint were two of the first stories to appear, with both articles reappearing on other sites, like Yahoo! News. Others followed quickly, including IT Week, and Computing, Tech Digest, Techworld, Computeractive and Search Engine Watch. The team also used Scandoo for a piece being written for The Guardian about gambling online.
In blogging terms, over there were 450 mentions on blogs, and still appearing at a rate of around 1-2 per week. In addition, the campaign saw a strong resurgence in August 2006 when Google announced its own web alerting service, which led to a number of positive Scandoo mentions alongside the story.
And the team has also started to mention it to industry analysts, like Ovum, not officially but as ‘have you used Scandoo yet?’ conversation.
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