Talking Data-Driven Thought Leadership with Dan Deeth (Crommunity Podcast)
On this episode of the Crommunity Podcast, I sit down with seasoned corporate communications professional Dan Deeth, the Senior Manager, Corporate Communications at eSentire. Over a little more than an hour, we dive into public relations, media and analyst relations, and data-driven thought leadership.
While at Sandvine, Dan owned the industry renowned Global Internet Phenomena program. These data-driven thought leadership pieces focused on exploring and explaining consumer Internet trends; under Dan’s direction, they consistently generated headlines in mainstream media, technology publications, and industry outlets.
Since starting his career in 2006, Dan has held communications-related roles at a number of organizations, including a Bruce Power nuclear facility, Sigma Systems, and Sandvine. Nowadays, he plies his trade at eSentire, a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) cybersecurity provider.
Dan’s grasp of media and his understanding of reporters’ needs and motivations make him very effective. While at Sandvine, he owned the industry renowned Global Internet Phenomena program. These data-driven thought leadership pieces focused on exploring and explaining consumer Internet trends; under Dan’s direction, they consistently generated headlines in mainstream media, technology publications, and industry outlets. They formed a critical piece of our broader thought leadership program, helping us punch well above our weight on the global stage.
I hope more local companies will invest a little bit of time and effort into similar programs; the results can be spectacular.
At the risk of tooting our own horns a bit, I’m personally not aware of any thought leadership initiatives from other Waterloo Region tech companies that garnered nearly the positive attention of our Global Internet Phenomena program. By sharing the story, and diving into particular challenges and success factors, I hope more local companies will invest a little bit of time and effort into similar programs; the results can be spectacular.
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It was definitely a fun and instructive trip down memory lane.
Here’s your handy topic-and-timing guide:
- [2:11] The density of security companies in the Waterloo Region, and how cybersecurity has more cooperation than outsiders realize; local cybersecurity companies include BlackBerry, Symantec, McAfee, eSentire, Arctic Wolf, Agilicus, and more…
- [7:19] The challenges of differentiating your company when every company in your field has similar information and capabilities
- [9:21] Dan’s communication roots, his engagement philosophies, whether for PR, media, or analysts, and different audience needs
When it comes to PR—public relations or analyst relations—my approach has always been, and where I think I’ve been effective… Be very easy to work with, don’t try to hard-sell anybody, give people the truth, and get back to people quickly. If you give people information that you think will be beneficial to them, in a way that they want, they can choose to use it or choose not to use it, or choose to act on it, or choose not to act on it.
- [15:18] The importance of being able to answer media inquiries quickly, and why you shouldn’t just inundate a reporter with pitches
- [16:45] A little bit about how Sandvine’s data-driven thought leadership reports became so successful over the years; we were regularly front-page news on CNN, CBC, Ars Technica, ZDNet, Bloomberg, and many, many more
- [19:13] Why I’m glad I listened to the media’s questions, and provided them extra data; also, about how our program wasn’t an overnight success
I’d missed it in preparing the report, but in listening to the audiences and in getting them what they needed to be successful—they knew what was going to generate attention—we just helped them be successful.
- [22:41] How Dan’s media engagement abilities really took Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena program to the next level; how the program and report evolved over time from a technical-orientation to more mainstream appeal; why our report outperformed competing reports from Cisco, Ericsson, Akamai, and other competitors
- [27:53] That many companies in Waterloo region could create waves with data-driven thought leadership of their own
There’s a lot of companies in Waterloo region that have some really interesting data…
- [31:16] Why executives love data; don’t assume they have access to it!
- [32:28] Why industry and media headlines don’t directly turn into sales, but why they do help; why the result of the Sandvine+Procera merge-quisition is still called Sandvine; thought leadership is a long game; Dan’s greatest career regret (so far!); the organic origins of our research into IPTV piracy (CBC coverage), data fraud, and voice fraud
- [40:04] How some thought leadership is trivia, and other thought leadership dives into acute, important problems so well that it creates action; stakeholder management, both external (we dealt with heavyweights including Netflix, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google) and internal; the importance of being accurate and standing up to scrutiny; don’t make your thought leadership programs salesy
- [50:37] Why Netflix was so interested in our statistics and reports; why we won one of our biggest deals; our ‘interesting’ relationship with Netflix; that time Netflix CEO Reed Hastings came to Waterloo specifically to meet us and learn more about our program; that time Netflix was quite angry with us after we were part of a provocative front-page story in the Wall Street Journal
It’s fun, it’s cool to be in Engadget and those places—and those are great publications—but Wall Street Journal is a pinnacle. I’ve got a copy of it somewhere. It’s a story that we pitched, it’s a story that they took. That’s legit business journalism.
- [1:00:13] Measuring the success of long-term thought leadership programs is a significant challenge; where we could’ve improved, and missed opportunities
- [1:02:57] Summing up some takeaways for those interested in trying out some data-driven thought leadership; these programs are less work than you think, with potentially massively asymmetric benefits; start somewhere
When your problem domain is poorly understood by any collection of stakeholders—it doesn’t have to just be customers, it could be the analyst community, it could be media, it could be investors—you can bring data to that conversation and the opinions start to fall away, and they get replaced with measurable facts.
- [1:08:57] The role of good ol’ luck; using data to help people climb the knowledge mountain; the curse of knowledge
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Header/Featured photo credit: Dan Deeth and Matt Botsford