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As a senior vice president at W2 Communications specializing in cybersecurity PR campaigns, Tom Resau brings more than 18 years of experience, including the creation and management of public sector, energy and financial services PR programs for Symantec’s corporate communications team. Throughout his career, he has represented top information security vendors, consultants and systems integrators – including many focused on U.S. military and other government customers – placing clients in top-tier business, broadcast and industry-trade media.”
How has the PR industry changed since you started your career?
The most dramatic change is in communications mediums. When I was in college (@PSUBellisario) in the 1990’s, we wrote papers about how cable TV was reinventing news cycles – but that was nothing compared to the web and social media. Like every new medium, these are double-edged swords. They facilitate a lot of great journalism, education and humanity – but also introduce a lot of risk and disinformation. Just ask Crock-Pot.
What was your proudest moment as a PR professional?
In 2003, when I managed the public sector PR program at Symantec, I had a remarkable opportunity to write a speech that Symantec’s then-CEO John Thompson gave at the U.S. Air Force IT Conference that year. I’d only been at Symantec about a year – and out of school just a few years – but it was a real thrill because of how much I enjoy the military and national security issues. John Thompson is one of the most charismatic and effective speakers I have ever seen, period – in politics, business or sports. Of course, he contributed plenty of his own powerful anecdotes and insights to create the finished product. Watching John make all the points we had strategized on as a PR team was very memorable and gratifying.
Another memorable episode was in 2014 when I placed three separate W2 Communications security clients in a 2014 NPR piece on ransomware. It was a fun story because each expert had a very powerful point of view on the ethical and practical issues of deciding whether to pay a ransomware attacker to recover scrambled files. The three voices really complemented each other. That is what I strive for in this job – finding the ideas, debates and conflict behind cyber threats’ impact on business, culture and ethics.
What influenced you to get into the tech/cyber industry?
I never thought I would work in technology. In high school I wanted to be a journalist or author focusing on the military. In college, I became a PR major and wanted to get into government relations after working a few internships in my congressman’s office. But the first job I landed was at a tech PR agency, so I figured I’d try technology for a little bit. The agency’s cybersecurity clients fascinated me. This was 1999, so cybersecurity was off the mainstream media’s radar. Remember the Melissa virus? Start-ups in e-commerce and broadband were much more exciting to media – like what #blockchain is, today.
I really took to those security companies because I grew up in a U.S. Army family stationed in West Germany during the Cold War and I love the history of military strategy, espionage and intelligence. With that background, plugging into the security community was a way to be creative in tech-driven news cycles with themes I already recognized and enjoyed. The privilege of getting to meet experts who study – and live – these themes clicked for me. You cannot fake passion – if you love a subject, you are going to be a much more effective communicator because of your knowledge and sincerity.
What advice would you give to your younger PR self?
Tackle graduate school or other professional education earlier in your career. It does not have to be anything formal – just seek out and acquire other skills that help you as a communicator. For example, if you are a natural at media relations – that is fantastic. However, in PR – on both the corporate and agency side – you will have to collaborate and coexist with marketers, designers, sales teams and others, so take the time to learn about building web sites, lead generation, measuring addressable markets and other areas. Appreciating others’ disciplines helps you advocate for your own skills and experience.
If Fancy Bear and Sandworm got in a fight, who would win?
I’d bet on Fancy Bear because of his sheer tenacity and staying power. Having Cozy Bear as a notorious tag team partner helps, too.