Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Chuck Harold (US) – Host of Security Guy TV
Andrew Seldon (South Africa) – Editor of Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Brian Sims (UK) – Editor, Security Matters and Fire Safety Matters

Key points

Has the security sector been well served by the press? There was a feeling that there were extremes here. All three panellists felt that they – and the security press generally – had been supportive of the security sector. On this point you will witness an interesting discussion about whether the panel considered themselves journalists first or spokespeople for the security sector. The national press were seen to be less positive and for several reasons. As Andrew Seldon noted, it has its own agenda which it needs to service, and security has not always engaged meaningfully with that agenda. Also, security doing a good job means nothing happens and when nothing happens that is not newsworthy. In a different way technology is more exciting, AI gets attention, developments are more interesting to talk about and that is less the case with people.

The balance between people in security and security technology is debated. It is noted that a simple internet search for security shows up technology companies. Yet much of the work undertaken in this area of security is based on behavioural analytics; the role of people – although much less commonly acknowledged – is rarely far away. There is a discussion about the need to represent security for all its dimensions, people and technology, albeit easier said than achieved given that security is a fragmented sector.

Representing security well is undermined by its image. Andrew Seldon notes that in South Africa security has a somewhat negative image, not least in the lockdown where it has been associated with military on the streets and the somewhat negative consequences of the state of emergency. Security personnel have taken up the mantle by not just doing their job but extra too, taking on tasks that extending their usefulness by engaging in duties that are more than just security roles such as distributing sanitiser and enforcing social distancing. This generated a mixed response from some audience members warning of the dangers of diluting the security expertise which is its selling point.

There is an interesting discussion about the role of security in soap operas. This type of platform is easy to dismiss but such programmes have a captive audience and are culturally prominent. A story focussed on the role of a good security officer helping to protect and help people could be very influential. Some pointed out – including audience members – that there were already examples of this on television but this is an area where there is potential for more positive representation, and so are cartoons as you will hear Chuck Harold discuss.

There were other ideas generated for influencing the national media which included, building up a rapport with editors of national papers and news outlets; larger security companies and perhaps senior security personnel coming together to make the case for security; and building up a rapport with CEOs and getting them to take forward the message. Brian Sims proposes a forum which sounds innovative and he praises the role of a range of associations that represent them, an interesting observation given that they had been criticised in previous webinars. Witness also an interesting discussion with Chuck Harold discussing the importance of facts.

There is no shortcut for security showing it is necessary, that it adds value, and that it is appreciated for the difference it makes. Security speaking on its own merit within the industry has enormous value of course, but it has been less good at speaking to outside audiences, and even with the hierarchies inside companies. A prerequisite for influencing the world positively starts with getting its own act and messaging together. Working from that principle is fundamental but at best, as this time of crisis has shown, it is work in progress.