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Making Decisions

Should we advertise during a public health emergency?

This article is a little unusual. In it, Fred, an analyst at Dispel, details the team's thought process behind launching a social media campaign advertising Dispel's remote access technology amidst sensitive current affairs.
Fred Chang
Fred Chang
03 March, 20205 min read
Should we advertise during a public health emergency?

This article is a little unusual. In it, Fred, an analyst at Dispel, details the team's thought process behind launching a social media campaign advertising Dispel's remote access technology amidst sensitive current affairs.

The goal of this article is to present all the thoughts and considerations involved, and open a channel for discussion and feedback.

Should there even be a campaign?

The obvious first question considered was whether or not we should even launch a campaign at all advertising Dispel's remote access. We ultimately decided to move forward with a campaign, both by advertising on social media and adjusting our business operations. This section presents the pro-con analysis and research guiding that decision.

In opposition: why a campaign is a bad idea.

  • We're not in the business of fear-mongering: We're in a WHO-declared official public health emergency. People are panicking. Whether or not one thinks the panic is warranted, the emotion is real, and so are the effects. We do not want to fear-monger, perpetuate panic, or fabricate urgency.
  • Intention doesn't always translate to impact: As a business, we're trying to provide help to those in need, not profit off of fear. However, a well-intentioned campaign can flop in execution, coming off to the audience as exploitative and tactless.
  • It's getting political: We're not interested in participating in the politics of current affairs, or getting anywhere close. We're just here to help IT and OT administrators protect their networks and enable remote work.

In support: why a campaign is important right now.

  • We can genuinely help: Rapidly deployable secure remote access at scale happens to be our specialty.
  • Right now, the world seriously needs remote access, particularly to OT/ICS networks: Don't take it from us, take it from all these places:

OT/IT departments are facing a real problem, and we have a real solution. Knowing the risks, we still want to help.

Fear mongering is not right. Profiting off a pandemic is not right. But staying silent and not offering help is also not right.

So the question is, how do we proceed?

The Process: How do we design such a campaign?

Here's the process of how the campaign creatives were made, and how feedback was considered.

  1. Gather the team's independent opinions: To prevent groupthink, we heard each member's thoughts, one by one.
  2. Draft campaign creatives: The marketing team puts together a set of text/visuals for review
  3. Repeat 1 and 2 until everyone feels good.
  4. Run mini focus groups: each team member reached out to 5-10  friends/family for a gut feel and sanity check
  5. Do it again until all focus groups feel good.

We decided on a grim-trigger feedback system, wherein a single hesitant opinion is enough for us to iterate again. The resulting campaign is one that all of the team members and all the focus groups feel good about.

There's obviously always the potential for such a campaign to land poorly among some audiences. When weighed against the possibility of helping an organization stay healthy and enable a remote workforce, this is a risk we've chosen to accept.

The Content

This campaign is comprised of two components: the media circulated, and the actual business operations adjusted to match.

The Media

IT and OT departments are under pressure to rapidly enable a large-scale remote workforce. This is the problem we are solving.

The point of this campaign is to announce that we're willing and able to solve this problem, and our content is designed to address this problem specifically.

All the text speaks to our abilities to deploy remote access, our willingness to help, and our modified operations plans. We decided against any mention of why the IT/OT departments are facing pressure. That's not our business. Our business is just to help the ones that are facing this pressure.

All the visuals are as neutral as possible, depicting technological connectedness or OT equipment.

The Operations

To back up the social media announcements and lower the barrier to help, our operations team decided to:

  • waive all installation fees
  • launch a month-to-month commitment plan, as opposed to annual. This plan allows ICS managers to roll back spending after the public health emergency and get some breathing room to make a long-term decision
  • make a commitment to work with each individual company's financial circumstances on a case by case basis

That way, bureaucracy will not get in the way of procuring helpful technology.

But Fred, if Dispel really wants to help, why don't you just publish free download links?

We're primarily dealing with OT/ICS. These networks are all configured differently, and absolutely need to remain secure. We want to talk to the teams who are going to use Dispel, and we know they will want to talk to us too. That's why we're encouraging interested people to reach out, not just download a Dispel-lite trial online. Regardless of each company's financial circumstances, we are committed to help.

Final Sanity Check

Along the way, our marketing team will be closely monitoring the situation and adjusting components of the campaign as needed. The goal is to help. The challenge is to stick close to the goal, and execute thoughtfully.

If you have any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, please email the author directly at

Remote access has become a necessity to organizations operating ICS. Your time matters, and your systems should work. Invest in a remote access system built from the ground up for industrial control networks, uniquely secured with moving target defense, with no compromises on security.

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