Archives for November 2015

Exploring the Cybersphere: November

This week in our blog, we offer a snapshot of cybersecurity, privacy and data security news of interest to the executive suite.  Periodically, we’ll recap insights from the growing cadre of voices in this space as well as lend our own views on the issues that impact executive governance of cyber risk and response.

Many takeaways this month from articles that further our understanding of cybersecurity concerns and issues starting with:

In a technology driven world, those pesky human life forms continue to be problematic.

Changing Human Behavior Key to Thwarting Cybersecurity Attacks


Despite increased spending on technology to stave off cyberattacks, companies are getting compromised more and taking bigger hits.

How long does it take for employees to be security conscious?

CSO Online

An internal USPS phishing simulation campaign found that more than 25 percent of the 3,125 employees who were tested clicked on a phony link. What’s more, 93 percent of the baited employees didn’t report the incident to the USPS Computer Incident Response Team, according to the report.

How to Promote a Strong Cybersecurity Culture Year-Round

IT Business Edge

National Cyber Security Awareness Month kicked off with an attention-grabbing incident that reminds us why security matters. News of the massive data breach at Experian highlights the difficulties that organizations face in protecting systems and sensitive data from increasingly sophisticated intruders.

DoD Needs To Improve Cyber Culture, CIO Says

U.S. Department of Defense

The Defense Department needs to change its cyber culture to protect its networks from the relentless threat from hackers, the department’s chief information officer said today.

Hacktivists. Black Hats? White Hats? Gray Hats? Spotted?

Cyber vigilantes flex growing power

The Hill

Activist hackers — so-called hacktivists — are getting harder to differentiate from more serious threats such as terrorist groups and nation-state cyber warriors, security researchers say.

The Biggest Cybersecurity Risk Is Not Identity Theft

Tech Crunch

Cybersecurity debates tend to focus on theft of personal information and cyberattacks that damage physical systems like electric grids. But there is less discussion about a very real threat posed by hackers who deface websites, apps and other sources to spread false information. Neither our legal system nor our private sector is adequately prepared to deal with such damaging acts.

Know Thy Enemy. Hire a Hacker to Enhance Your Cybersecurity


If your cybersecurity strategy isn’t up to snuff, you could be exposing your business to financial ruin. Telecoms giant TalkTalk is a testament to this. The British firm is experiencing huge fallout after confirming last week in an official statement that it had been the latest victim of a major cybersecurity hack.

ISIS gives tips for avoiding Anonymous hackers

The Hill

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is trying to get ahead of the hacking group Anonymous after it declared cyber war on the terrorist group after last Friday’s deadly attacks in Paris.

We all need something to look forward to….

5 Dangerous Cyber Threats To Prepare For In 2016


Hackers used to be the nerd equivalent of charming rogues—math whizzes wielding simple algorithms to wreak havoc primarily for the bragging rights. But today, hacking is big business. Networks of hackers with greedy or geopolitical intentions use the most advanced technology to steal or extort huge sums of money and bring down businesses.

‘McAfee Labs 2016 Threats Predictions’ Report Forecasts Changes

McAfee Labs Blog

In the McAfee Labs 2016 Threats Predictions report, published today, we developed two distinct views of the future.

By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

SDI #CyberTuesday offers insights and commentary on cyber risk management by SDI’s trusted cybersecurity, privacy and data security experts, skilled practitioners whose decades of experience working for governments and corporations around the world distinguish them as strategists and crisis managers.

You can view previous blog posts on cyber risk management here.

November 24, 2015

Survive the Holidays with a Little PR

thanksgiving blog image

The Thanksgiving holiday is here, and if you’re anything like me, you’re getting ready to kick your feet up and think about turkey, the weather, maybe some football in the yard, and certainly that fat slice of pumpkin or apple pie. The last thing on your mind is the to-do list on your desk at the office. Yet, if you think about it, the PR skills you bring to the office all year long will serve you well as you prepare to engage in the holiday’s offerings and gorge on its treats.

I know you think I’m crazy, because you’re likely picturing how nice it’s going to be to sit down, eat a delicious meal, and drift into tryptophan land shortly afterwards. But in reality, what looms are the possibilities of kitchen fiascos, flight scheduling nightmares, burnt desserts and family time overload. How do we use what we’ve employed all year long to keep ourselves and our clients on a winning track, to make that enjoyable scene in our head play out as planned?

Check out these tips for using PR to survive your Thanksgiving holiday this year.

  1. Brainstorm, organize, plan, execute!

You would never run a client’s campaign without thorough preparation and planning. You should apply that same approach to your holiday, especially if you’re hosting.  Hosting the big get-together is always fun,but as a wise man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Or in the case of hosting, “With large parties comes extensive preparation.” Follow your game plan from the office, and outline  how you’re going to execute the big day. Have lots of youngsters coming? An arts and crafts station, or an outdoor activity to keep them entertained – and out of the kitchen – is always a good idea. My grandpa used to rent a bounce-house every year, and it was always (and still is) my favorite. Likewise, if you have a large or diverse group of family and friends, consider surveying – send printed notes or go casual with a text – your guests for the drinks and appetizers they’d love to see. Just like you strive to learn everything about your client so you can best serve them,  you want to anticipate your guests’ needs to ensure a fun and relaxing holiday for them – and yourself.

  1. Teamwork is a must, but so is leadership.

Ever hear the phrase, “Too many cooks in the kitchen?” I haven’t done the research, but I’m willing to bet someone coined it after a Thanksgiving “uh-oh.” We all love getting together in the kitchen and whipping up those recipes that go generations-deep, and doing it together is what makes it special. Aunt Jan knows just how to whip the sweet potatoes for Granny’s famous pie, and your brother never forgets to remind you that you shouldn’t overcook the green beans, and of course mom will have to help stuff the turkey because, well, it’s her thing. Everyone contributes in his or her own way, but getting too many cooks in the kitchen leads to disaster – or frustration at the very least. Run your kitchen like you run your client accounts: lead, but employ lots of well-organized help. We have account executives and account coordinators, and interns and executive vice presidents for a reason. When everyone performs his or her role the team functions at its best. So, Uncle Ryan can handle the turkey how he likes, and your sister can ice the cake, but like you would with your client team, keep control of your kitchen.

  1. Recognize when it’s time to enjoy.

And finally, if you’re anything like me, or my mom, or the large majority of Thanksgiving-fanatics, you’ve already shifted into high gear preparing for Thursday, and by the time that bird comes out of the oven, you’ll be ready for a nap. It’s often like that in the PR world — so many details to attend to in frequently compressed timeframes.  While it can be overwhelming at times, it’s also what keeps it fun. And, it helps make those moments when you can sit back, reflect on your work and appreciate it that much sweeter. Thanksgiving should be no different. Holidays are bound to be stressful, and rightfully so with all we pack into them, but they’re still holidays. So, you’ve prepped every dish, served every beverage, and pulled out every chair in the house. Now, it’s time to sit down, relax, and enjoy the work you’ve put in. Dig into that turkey, have an extra piece of pie, and be happy with what you’ve accomplished alongside your team – er, I mean family. You deserve it.


By Morgan Beavers, SDI

Morgan is a senior at the University of Georgia studying public relations and English.

November 23, 2015

Celebrating Susan’s Special Day – Words of Love and Moments Captured Forever

birthday candles 2If you ask Hallmark how to say Happy Birthday to those in  your work environment, they’ll feed you the generic line, “It’s a pleasure to work with you… and to wish you a happy birthday.” At Susan Davis International, we are anything but  generic.  Our wonderful CEO, Susan Davis, is celebrating her  birthday today and all of us at the SDI office as well as some of Susan’s close friends have a lot more to say than just,  “Happy Birthday.”


Susan is always looking around for young people that she can lift up, mentor, or coach through both their careers and lives. She truly enjoys sharing her own experiences with up and coming professionals.


When a former boss recommended that I look into an internship at SDI because of the woman who started the company, I knew before meeting Susan that she was a person of great strength and character. I’ve seen that confirmed in many ways since I started here. I’ll always remember when she invited all the interns for lunch and told us about her experience working with Egypt’s Minister of Defense in the Susan Davis1980s. A young woman, she flew to Egypt on her own and spent days negotiating and holding her own with some of the most prominent and powerful men in the country (even as they sized her up through an unspoken challenge to match their bourbon intake at dinner).

Susan, you’re an inspiration for me and for all women wishing to gain ground and make a difference in a changing world. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn from you this semester, and I hope to take away even a fraction of the gusto and influence you bring every day. Happy Birthday to an outstanding example!


It has been a pleasure working for you this semester. Your passion and “driving sense of mission” is truly amazing, and it has been an inspiration to me as I embark on my professional career.  I couldn’t have asked for a better internship environment and learning experience, as I’ve had the chance to work for the best.  I hope one day my library trophy case will be half the size of yours.

I wish you another year of success and happiness!

Julie Haupin

elvis While I’m still relatively new to the Susan Davis International team, Susan  has welcomed me with open arms. Beyond her inspiring leadership  and strong business savvy, Susan’s warmth and
sense of humor emanate throughout the entire office
. I especially  enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with her at a recent client dinner, and  look forward to our continued work together. Happy Birthday, Susan!

 Julie Seger

Happy Birthday!! I trust your special day is exciting, adventurous and all that you hoped for. I’ve had the greatest opportunity to be able to work with and learn from you. I’ve really gotten to know you over the past year and I value the relationship we share. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me and the SDI staff. Have a wonderful day and cheers to another great year!


The first time I got to sit down and talk to Susan was when she invited the interns to lunch.  I knew she was intelligent and accomplished but the stories she shared with us about her professional career were incredible to hear and extremely motivating as a young women entering the work world.  I feel very lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to work and learn at SDI.  It’s also nice to have a fellow Wisconsinite in DC! I wish the happiest of birthdays to you Susan!


Samsung Phone Photos 039

Thank you for serving as an inspiring example for young women like myself — and proving
what can happen when you follow your passion and dreams despite the challenges. You created this company at a time when few women owned businesses and succeeded remarkably.  Now, you help other
young women carry on the legacy of initiative and drive, both through Vital Voices and meetings with interns where you share your experiences and encourage them to dream. I wish you a very happy birthday.


Here is your birthday horoscope!  “Being a Scorpio born on November 18th, you’re as caring as you are determined. You dedicate yourself fully to all your relationships, which explains why you often find yourself looking out for the needs of others above all else. Your friends and family appreciate your nurturing ways, but they truly admire your determination. When confronted with a worthwhile challenge, there is nothing that will prevent you from conquering it. Your willpower is amongst your greatest strengths. And your dreams bring you lots of inspiration and hope for the future.”

Those astrologers got it right – wishing you an absolutely fantastic year ahead- Happy Birthday!


One of my favorite memories with Susan is when she took Aliza and me out to lunch at Brasserie Beck. I hardly touched my (delicious) food, because I was so engrossed in Susan’s stories.  Her experiences working on a diverse range of clients make for some amazing stories—not only were they very entertaining, they also spoke to her entrepreneurial and creative spirit. I feel lucky to have such a strong female role model in my professional life.  Wishing you all the best on your birthday, Susan!


Happy Birthday to the wonderful Susan, the only woman I know who serves pork at a dinner party for Jewish guests and who love her so much they eat it and ask for second helpings!”

Love from Norman x 

susanbdayresize1 S-sweet, is what she likes to eat.

 U– never know what she will have you do

 S-serious about have FUN

 A-adventure is her middle name

 N-never considers quitting (especially at having FUN) Happy bday!!!

Meet me for a donut!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the amazing Susan — who gets more done in a day than most of us accomplish in a week.  Hope that on THIS day, though, you’ll be able to slow down a bit and just savor… starting with a life already oh-so-well lived and a future that beckons with even more opportunity to do good and have fun.  Also trust you’ll remember that birthdays are Mother Nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake.  (And speaking of moms, congratulations to Vivian too!)

Love,  Carol


susanbdayresize3 susanbdayresize2Dear Susan, Pictures are worth a thousand words. Wishing an old and  dear friend a very Happy Birthday!


 Sharon Borth

 (Lest you forget, that’s Sister Marlene)


Disco Susan,

Too bad I can’t find a photo of you in your hot bell-bottom clingy polyester jump suit with sparkles on the front.  Ah, the early seventies were so much fun. You may have changed your outfits to St John’s knits, but the belle of the ball dancing queen is still inside. Wishing you many, many more decades of having too much fun!

Happy Birthday,

Fran Ulmer  


Dear Susan,  We’ve been friends a long time (dare I say 40+ years?  I think so)…During that time we’ve
collaborated in business, enjoyed our pleasure, invested ourselves in philanthropy and I have admired you throughout.  You are one of the most generous, selfless and beautiful individuals I’ve been proud to have as a cherished friend.  When I brought you into the Vital Voices inner circle more about a dozen years ago, I should have known you would go right to the top of that organization and do the fantastic job you have done managing and carrying it to new heights. For that I thank you and for all the other adventures we’ve shared, let’s just say it’s been great and I hope there are a lot more adventures yet to come.  Lastly, let me say that you are a great daughter. In fact, I admire your entire family for the tremendous love and kindness that exudes from the whole Davis clan.  And, on your birthday, dear Susan, there are no wishes better than an Irish blessing:  May you live as long as you want, and never want as long as you live.


Mary Daley Yerrick

Happy Birthday, dear Susan!

“To me, fair friend,

you never can be old,

for as you were when

first your eye I eyed,

such seems your beauty still.” (Sonnet 104)

I am a great Susan Davis admirer. You are a Renaissance woman: vibrant, upbeat, fun loving, brilliant, “go to and get around” gal: whether DC, Capitol Hill, Arena, Vital Voices, and, of course, Ireland.  With all that traveling, you continue to show your commitment to family values.

I love being with you for your enthusiasm which is contagious, your caring about others, and your joie de vivre.

So, dear friend, have a great birthday and a great year!







Dear Susan, So many special days, so many more ahead.

 Love, Marcia

Hi Susan 

How wonderful to be able to wish you happiness void health and prosperity in your business. With my best wishes for a long and lovely life with God’s blessings.

Mary Piyatissa

Sister – I speak for the crowd.

You can talk me into anything. I like that about you, and I hate that about you. But I love everything else (including your closet). Skol!



Hi Susan, Thank you for being so kind and generous of spirit for many years now. The scariest moment was when I brought my friend Tim to your Halloween party in Georgetown and he became a gay icon overnight!! Great memories of a great individual who has done so much for US-Irish relations. Happy birthday Susan and hope to see you soon.

Your friends forever,

Liam and Cathy

Seems like only yesterday. September evening with the smell of burning leaves in the air. Susan walking home with Glen Simonis, and me walking a couple steps behind looking at a flight of snow geese silhouetted against a full moon. Susan says “you know what you did…” Glen replies “no, I don’t, tell me…”  Susan, “you know what you did…” Glen continuing to profess ignorance of his transgression and bewilderment.  So, when the interminable moment finally does end, and Glen disappears, I say…”so what did he do?”  Answer, “nothing, just need to keep him on his toes.”  From the beginning, she’s Untitled2 always had a plan, and she’s playing chess while you’re playing checkers.

 Bro, Tom

 Super Susan … Life force and energizer bunny and extraordinary  networker…Not to mention her role as the Royal Flush of the Poker Pals  group! Hope you have a wonderful bday and that you keep us all on your list for  adventures to come



“It’s so nice that you decided to go back to your natural color.”

Happy birthday to my loving, comforting, fun, creative, stimulating, smart soulmate of close to (eeeek!) 30 years! Here’s to many, many more!!  Love you, dear buddy.

P.S. Still looking forward to that airplane.



Wherever you are, there goes my heart. And whatever brings  you joy, makes me joyful tenfold. (Except to beat me in UNO)

 Happy Birthday my darling,





Maddie Packard, SDI 

Maddie is a senior at St. Norbert College studying Media Communications and Business

November 18, 2015

War has been declared. Get ready, Anonymous

In the aftermath of the devastating attack on Paris, France began asking its allies to support it in waging war against ISIS. The first to step forward and declare war against the Islamic State was one of the world’s smaller superpowers…Anonymous. That’s right, Anonymous. Speaking in French, a masked spokesperson for Anonymous solemnly warned ISIS that “Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down.” While leaders from G20 nations assembled in Turkey managed to condemn the attack on Paris, and even authored a principled statement on economic hacking to demonstrate civilized nations have principles, Anonymous fired up its own version of a nuclear weapon.

Will it have an impact? Well, today Anonymous announced that it’s helped Twitter shut down over 5,000 pro-ISIS accounts, and it has leaked what it says is personal information about alleged ISIS members.  If this is the beginning of a sustained effort, it is likely it will seriously complicate ISIS’ online activities.  The Islamic State’s use of social media has been seen as a significant asset for the group, and a key contributor to their ability to attract new recruits, even though some cyber experts suggest that rather than shutting sites down the government would prefer to identify sites being used and monitor them to track specific individuals through their online activity. On this latter point is seems fair to question just how much value is being extracted when the target is a cyber savvy group.

Earlier this year, writing in Foreign Policy, E.T. Brooking lamented the United States government’s ability to counter the Islamic State’s vast social media propaganda efforts. He offered what seemed a novel suggestion, “If the United States is struggling to counter the Islamic State’s dispersed, rapidly regenerative online presence, why not turn to groups native to this digital habitat? Why not embrace the efforts of third-party hackers like Anonymous to dismantle the Islamic State — and even give them the resources to do so?”  Mr. Brooking may seem entirely prescient.  However unruly and misguided their efforts periodically may be, the hacktivists of Anonymous do seem to have a moral compass, and their view of the world is not likely to align with the brutal acts of ISIS. What we are now witnessing is a potential proof of concept of Mr. Brooking’s argument. If, with apologies to Clausewitz, war is the ultimate act of politics, then we may once again be treated to affirmation that politics makes strange bedfellows.

By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

November 17, 2015

Land of the Free, Because of the Brave: 90’s Kids Perspectives on Veterans Day

Veterans Day gives us all a chance to say thank you to the brave men and women who have fought for our country’s freedoms.  In my life, Veterans Day has always meant a lot.  

My grandmother, Elaine St. John, was a US Navy Wave Lieutenant J.G. in WWII.  My grandfather, George St. John, ended up as a Commander in the U.S. Navy, stayed with the Reserves and was Commanding Office of the Atlantic City Naval Reserve Unit during the 1950s.  My uncle, Jeff St. John, was first a midshipman in the US Navy and ended up as a Captain of the U.S. Marine Corps.  He earned a bronze star for bravery.  My grandfather, George Haupin, was a WWII Army expert marksman, and received four campaign stars for serving on the Mountain Artillery Reconnaissance Services Task Force in the 612th Field Artillery Battalion in the China, Burma, and India Campaigns.

I am honored to be part of a family that sacrificed its time together, so other families could stay with theirs. Words cannot describe my pride.

When I was younger, I had pen pals in the military that I would write to and send tokens to, attempting to brighten their day just a little bit.  I’m not sure if it worked, but I know for a fact their letters back brightened mine.  I think now how lucky I was to have a hero as a pen pal.

Veterans Day not only gives us a chance to thank those who once served, it also enables us to thank those who are currently serving.  Although we should be thankful for veterans every single day, it’s important as a nation we collectively dedicate this day to the heroes who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of complete strangers.

I personally think we owe a debt to veterans for most of our way of life. In my day-to-day life, I don’t live in fear of any kind.  My gender doesn’t prevent me from going to college.  I’m allowed to speak my mind (maybe too much) without fear of recrimination.  I’m free to work hard and follow my dreams.  I can travel and explore our country without hostile border checks by armed guards. All of this is possible and we have the choices and amazing lives we do because of our veterans.

Being in Washington, D.C. at this time has even added to my patriotism.  I live right next to the Arlington Cemetery, I jog around the national mall after work, and I pass by the memorials regularly.  In D.C., everywhere you turn there is an iconic landmark or memorial, therefore, everywhere I turn, I am proud to be an American.

This is what I think. But out of curiosity, I asked some of my college-aged friends from around the country to describe what Veterans Day means to them in one sentence.  Here are the results:

“I don’t have immediate family members who fought—and unfortunately those who did are distant or deceased, so Veterans Day is a specific time for me to remember those strangers who have given so much to protect this nation, to protect me; and it’s their sacrifice for everyone, even those they don’t know, that amazes me.”- Morgan Beavers, University of Georgia

“For me, Veterans Day means recognizing all those we know and don’t know for their incredible service who don’t always get the credit they deserve. – Maddie Packard, St. Norbert College

“It’s a time to pay tribute to those who are serving and have served our country in the armed forces.” – Chris Griffith, Clemson University

“Veterans Day gives me a chance to appreciate those who have fought for our country, as they are more courageous and brave than I could ever imagine being.  I’m proud of my grandparents and family members for the patriotism they continue to have today which is demonstrated by their constant service to the community.  Sorry that was two sentences.” – Jamie Haupin, University of Delaware

“Veterans Day represents a day of honor and remembrance for the significant minority of individuals willing to preserve, protect, and defend the ideals and values of our great democracy; it’s also a day of solace for those that have paid the ultimate price with their lives.” – Ethan Murray, Texas Christian University

“To me, Veterans Day means taking time to honor and remember those who have served America and those who are currently serving our country.” – Ally Alden, University of Oxford through University of Georgia

“Veterans Day means honoring my family members who are veterans because I know they appreciate having that recognition as they are typically very modest about it.” – Maddie Squier, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“Veterans Day means celebrating the people who have advocated for, protected and fought for my American right to freedom, and for that, I am eternally grateful.” – Bella Cowdin, St. Louis University

Sometimes, especially for younger generations who do not have a relative or friend who served or is serving, it may be difficult to see how veterans have affected our everyday lives.  Sometimes it’s easy to take liberty and freedom for granted when we have never had it taken away from us.  I was surprised by the answers I received, and I think the “older generations” will be too.  Veterans Day is a reminder of our country’s place in history, and that the freedoms we value came at a high price, paid by those we celebrate on this day.


By Julie St. John Haupin, Susan Davis International

 Julie is a junior at Pennsylvania State University studying public relations and advertising.

 November 11, 2015



What Cyber Attack?  

cyber tuesday logo smallerA few months ago I was participating in a cybersecurity forum aimed at corporate boards of directors.  We’d split into smaller teams to do a problem solving exercise.  The gentleman seated to my right was a member of the board of directors of a bank in a southeastern Asia nation. He told me he was having difficulty getting his fellow board members to engage in serious cyber planning. When I asked where they were in the planning cycle he said, essentially, nowhere. In fact, he said they had just faced a cyber attack in which the bank’s ATM machines had suddenly started spurting money. I presume he was referring to the Carbanak malware identified by Kaspersky, which underpinned what Kaspersky termed “by far the most successful criminal cyber campaign we have ever seen,” an effort that may have relieved banks around the world of about a billion dollars.

I asked what the bank did to respond to the attack.  He said, “We voted to ignore it.  We did not wish to call attention to the fact we were not prepared to protect against or respond to this kind of attack.”  At first blush the answer was hard to believe.  One immediately thinks that some combination of media coverage, regulatory intervention, law enforcement and/or simply word of mouth would prompt action.  But not, it seems, in this instance, which prompted me to wonder just how much culture impacts response.  It seems the answer may be, a heckuva lot.

The AP just reported that in Japan, “even with the frequency and severity of cyberattacks increasing rapidly worldwide, efforts by the world’s third-largest economy to improve its data security are being hobbled by a widespread corporate culture that views security breaches as a loss of face, leading to poor disclosure of incidents or information sharing at critical moments… .”  The article quotes William H. Saito, the top cybersecurity adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who notes that the problem is twofold. Rank-and-file workers fear reporting security lapses may get them punished, and there is a lack of understanding of cybersecurity among Japanese executives.  According to Saito, “This is Japanese culture where in some situations the upper management doesn’t know how to use email and IT integration is voodoo magic.”

In much of the world the story is similar.  Requirements for sharing information do not exist, and standards of acceptable behavior are in very formative stages of development. Unfortunately, this tilts the scales dramatically in favor of cyber criminals. Trying to change national culture around cyber preparation is a very challenging task.


By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

SDI #CyberTuesday offers insights and commentary on cyber risk management by SDI’s trusted cybersecurity, privacy and data security experts, skilled practitioners whose decades of experience working for governments and corporations around the world distinguish them as strategists and crisis managers.

You can view previous blog posts on cyber risk management here.

November 10, 2015


How Collegiate Athletics Prepared Me for PR

With nearly three months under my belt working as a student intern at Susan Davis International, my hopes for an experience that would push me in new directions have been met and surpassed.  I’m living in and navigating a new city, working full time, taking three classes and learning so much every single day. What has really surprised me is how much my collegiate athletics prepared me for the professional world. I’m an equestrian, and I ride for the University of Georgia’s NCAA 6x national champion equestrian team. Since my freshman year, I’ve been told that the skills, responsibilities, and character traits I’m learning as a student-athlete will continue to guide me after graduation, and I’m seeing that play out specifically in my PR experience now. Since starting at SDI, I’ve discovered three truths about my athletic experience that are now helping me understand and manage my professional experience.

riant 1

  1. Time Management is a Must

As a college athlete, every minute of my day that isn’t put to good use is wasted. Now, that doesn’t mean that I consider much-needed naps, mental breaks, and frozen yogurt dates with friends “wasted” time, because it certainly is not – those are VERY necessary! The point is, those 24 hours in each day run out very quickly if you don’t plan your time well and use it wisely.  It’s easy to waste time, but it’s also possible to manipulate your schedule to make the absolute most of it.

My daily schedule typically involves at least two workouts with our team’s personal trainer where we do strength and conditioning in the gym, two to three hours of practice out at the barn, around three hours in the classroom plus more studying outside of it, and meetings and responsibilities for the extracurricular and non-athletic involvements I have. Factor in three meals a day and a hopeful seven or eight hours of sleep, and it’s clear I couldn’t meet all of these commitments without good time management skills.

While I’m not spending my days running around campus and tacking up horses right now, I feel surprisingly at home with the pace of my new work schedule in public relations. When I sit down at my desk in the morning, I don’t know whether it’ll be a slow day or jam-packed, but more often than not, it’s the latter. And that requires being fully focused and ready to tackle whatever comes my way. There are tasks I have every single day that I can always expect to do, like scanning the internet for our clients in the media. Then, there are others that come unexpectedly like last-minute media advisories, pitching clients’ stories, or assembling twenty boxes of Giant’s new peppermint holiday treats to send to bloggers for reviews. And often, those unexpected tasks seem to come in waves—or avalanches. I’m able to prioritize my tasks and use my time to the best of my ability because of the time management skills I learned on campus as an equestrian.

nats ribbons

  1. You’re a Member of a Team

Until I joined a high school riding association my junior year, I grew up riding by and for myself. Joining the team at Georgia transformed my experience and my perspective, and I’m so grateful for that. I learned to work in a group dynamic, and rather than relying on myself for everything, I benefited from my teammates’ creativity, collaboration and support on difficult days, while contributing all I could at the same time. That’s made a huge difference in my perspective in the office, too, where although my instinct may be to charge ahead, I now realize that collaboration, well managed, is often the better pathway to successful and ahead-of-the-curve PR.

PR is all about creativity and skills and being up to speed with everything related to your client and your industry. One person can’t do it alone! I’ve learned largely through college athletics how to both participate as a team member and a leader, and I try to bring that to the office with me. I work as a team member on the intern team and as a member of the larger SDI team as a whole. As an intern, I have so much more learning to do than leading, but I still try to take initiative wherever I can and be the best leader I can be when the time calls for it. Whether it’s doing a job I see that needs to be done or taking the lead on an intern group project, I try to find the balance between leading and following.

nats ring

  1. You Wear a Lot of Hats

Perhaps the most significant similarity between my equestrian experience and working in PR is that in both I learned to love wearing different hats every single day. On campus, some days I’ve got to kick it into student-mode, and others I really have to focus on my sport while still maintaining my grades.  I have days where I’m up at 5:00 a.m. for a cardio workout with the team, then immediately switch to student-mode to focus in class for a few hours, then turn and go straight to the barn for practice on a horse that afternoon. After all that, I still need to study at night, so I’m constantly switching back and forth between being an athlete and being a student.

Through my internship with SDI, I’ve applied the same hat-swapping skills on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m helping out our cyber security practice by keeping up-to-date on the happenings in the cyber landscape. Sometimes I’m channeling my inner-salesman, calling journalists and pitching stories about Giant Food’s new store opening. Other times, I’m being creative with Photoshop and refreshing SDI’s website. All of it is fun, and all of it is so different. I love having to constantly shift my focus and being challenged to use different skills every day. The stimulation of changing dynamics keeps me on my toes both in the office and in the stirrups.

Everything I’ve learned in the last four years of being an NCAA equestrian has prepared me for the professional world, specifically in PR, and I see that more and more as I spend my semester here in Washington. It’s incredible how the skills I’ve worked to acquire as an athlete – both tangible and intangible – can be tweaked and applied to almost everything I do here at SDI. I may have swapped my helmet and boots for a blazer and heels, but each day still presents new fences to clear  – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


By Morgan Beavers, SDI

 Morgan is a senior at the University of Georgia studying public relations and English.

 November 5, 2015



Tales From the Encrypt

cyber tuesday logo smallerOne of the best kept secrets of World War II was the operation to intercept and read top-secret German military message traffic. Germany used an “Enigma” machine to communicate coded messages. Polish mathematicians reverse engineered the machine and began reading German messages. When the Germans moved to invade Poland, the Poles shared their Enigma secrets with the British, and the rest is history, a romanticized version of which can be gotten through watching the Oscar nominated film, “The Imitation Game” (2014).

It took enormous effort and years of dedication (and a spot of luck) to successfully break the encryption algorithm used by Germany. The level of effort required helps us understand why, in the face of ever-increasing cyber attacks, businesses are moving to embrace a standard that regulatory authorities have been urging,  and consumers seem to be expecting … sensitive data will be encrypted by those who hold it.

Why encrypt? Writing in Tech Insider, Peter Galvin, vice president of strategy and marketing at Thales e-Security, notes, “The ultimate goal of most malicious actors is to obtain sensitive user information or critical data. Encrypting stored data is one of the most effective ways of thwarting such attacks.  Encrypting data at all stages, at rest, in motion and in use is the best way to prevent critical data from being compromised. But it must be done — securely, efficiently and effectively.”

Further making the case, Ambassador Joseph R. DeTrani and Mark G. Fields write in The Hill, “It is time to boost the adoption of encryption tools as a global stabilizer and means to protect the economy that cuts across political agendas and geopolitical interests. Universally strong encryption is a powerful defense, which provides a unique capability to protect the private sector and citizens against malicious data breaches perpetrated by state or non-states actors.”

As for consumers’ expectations, let’s look at the recent breach at British Telecom firm TalkTalk,  whose CEO Dido Harding, in discussing the data stolen told The Sunday Times, “It wasn’t encrypted, nor are you legally required to encrypt it. … We have complied with all of our legal obligations in terms of storing of financial information.” Predictably, that response is being skewered by the media and has given rise to outrage among TalkTalk customers.


In the classic 1967 film, “The Graduate,” a wealthy neighbor of Dustin Hoffman’s “Ben” offers him a famous one word piece of advice … “plastics.” Fast forward to 2015. Change the word to … “encryption.”



By Tom Davis, SDI Cyber Risk Practice

SDI #CyberTuesday offers insights and commentary on cyber risk management by SDI’s trusted cybersecurity, privacy and data security experts, skilled practitioners whose decades of experience working for governments and corporations around the world distinguish them as strategists and crisis managers.

You can view previous blog posts on cyber risk management here.

November 3, 2015