Inside the Media Minds podcast featured image

Inside the PR Minds – An RSAC Reflection

In the first episode of our 2024 RSA Conference series, we sat down with Sam Sabin, cybersecurity reporter at Axios, to discuss her approach to scheduling, pitching and topics of interest while in San Francisco. In part two of this series, my colleague Steve Bosk returns to discuss our post-conference reflections. 

This was my first year attending RSAC versus helping run things from afar in previous years, and I can confidently say I now understand why the months leading up to this conference and the week of it can be so insane – and why those who carefully prepare are set up for great success. 

Between coordinating client and team meetings, staffing media briefings, hosting networking events and strategizing for new business (all while remembering to eat), crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s ahead of time is crucial to ensure you maximize value of all your interactions.

Creating Your Company’s “Moments in Time”

Steve and I agree that the greatest aspect of RSAC is the opportunity to gather and connect with so many people and teams in one week. W2 Communications had the privilege of hosting a media roundtable on the first night of the conference – shoutout to CyberScoop, POLITICO and Decipher for letting us steal a few of your journalists for the evening – where we heard how cyber communicators and marketers can be more useful resources to their media targets and sneak peaks of what’s to come at those publications. The biggest takeaway? Treat each other as human beings, not as transactional or AI-generated communicators.

On the client and vendor side of things, Steve notes there was an air of optimism during this year’s conference that was not present the past few years where recession and budget cuts loomed over many conversations. This year, there was increased focus on topics like funding, meeting growth targets and how one’s technology or platforms can optimize and be long-term players in an organization’s security stack.

Steve closes with an important reminder for fellow cyber communicators and marketers. Whether you’re able to make a lot of noise at RSAC or not, the in-person conversations and strategizing that happens during this conference can be invaluable to planning company milestones that will take place at other times. There’s no need to feel like maximizing every second at RSAC is a make-or-break for your company; it should be part of your holistic communications strategy that covers the other 51 weeks of the year too.

Listen now to the full episode as we go behind-the-scenes of our experience at RSAC from a PR perspective. The full transcript for this episode is also available to read here.


Intro: Welcome to Inside the Media Minds. This is your host, Christine Blake. This show features in depth interviews with tech reporters who share everything from their biggest pet peeves to their favorite stories. From our studio at W2 Communications, let’s go Inside the Media Minds.

Madison Farabaugh (MF): Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of Inside the Media Minds. I’m your host, Madison Farabaugh, filling in for Christine while she’s out. And I’m joined today with my colleague, Steve Bosk.

We are going to be diving into our Part Two episode for 2024 RSA and all things conference. Steve and I were both there on-site during the conference a few weeks ago. So yep, just going to be diving into what we learned, anything new we took away from the conference and key conversations. This was actually my first time attending the conference. So for me, it was a very cool experience just to see what all of the fuss is about every year. So much work goes into this, there’s lots of prep, I got to experience the show floor for the first time and see all of all of these vendor booths. I can understand. I can understand why everyone is so tired coming back from the conference every year.

So yeah, Steve, welcome back to the show. I would love to hear your key takeaways from this year’s conference. I know you’ve been attending for a while now. So anything you’d like to share?

Steve Bosk (SB):  I am still recovering, obviously. Still a week later. But yeah, I think this year’s RSA was absolutely fantastic on a number of different fronts. I think first and foremost, I think there’s something to be said about the value of, you know, massive in-person events on the scale of RSA. It’s one of the only times during the year where you can gather, you know, everybody that you are engaging with nearly every week, every day, and are wanting to engage with, you know, every so often all in one place within a few blocks of one another scrambling from one hotel to another or from the show floor to the hotel and back. It’s just a great overall environment and a great atmosphere. And just you accomplish so much in such little time. But it’s just an amazing in-person event platform that’s still thriving after all of these years.

MF: Yeah, I love that. And also love that you brought up, you know, bringing everybody together from from all over the country, sometimes all over the world. It’s very, very interesting to see everybody come together like that. And, you know, speaking of gathering people together, I know our agency, actually, on the first night of RSA, we hosted a media roundtable with some top cybersecurity reporters in the industry. And we invited, you know, a small group of senior marketing and communications professionals just to kind of get them direct access to those reporters so that they could hear straight from the source about what that journalism industry is like right now. And if there’s any ways that basically they can help journalists out and make their companies stand out better.

So Steve, was there anything you wanted to share just in terms of key insights from our roundtable? Are there any themes that you feel were most important that we learned from that?

SB: Well, I think first and foremost, just a huge thanks to Decipher, to POLITICO to CyberScoop for, you know, just setting aside time in their schedules to come by and be part of the event. I know schedules can get extremely chaotic, and to dedicate that amount of time, you know, an hour plus to, you know, get there, do some quick prep, participate in and be part of our bigger CYBERTACOS networking event thereafter, is a big commitment. So first and foremost, just you know, huge thanks to to them.

I think it was a really good discussion. I’ll bet you know, many of the things that all the panelists shared are not necessarily anything new, per se. It’s a lot of stuff that we’ve heard over and over, but to hear it live firsthand and to an audience that is wanting to engage with them in meaningful strategic ways on an ongoing basis. I think it was a good, you know, set of insights and best practices to double down on. And I think it really just comes down to not straying from the basics and sort of basic principles of it all, which is, you know, “Know thy reporter.”

And, you know, especially in talking through all these best practices, you know, with the advent of, you know, gazillion AI tools and leveraging AI in different ways in our day to day work, I don’t think reporters want to be, you know, talking to, you know, an AI PR Flack, they want to be talking to a human. They want to be talking to human sources. And I think that’s just something to keep in mind as we continue to navigate the new era of AI here, which is just continue to engage and act like a human with journalists. Journalists need helpful information and sourcing and insights. And we need, you know, journalists to help inform society in the marketplace and to, you know, be that be that, you know, independent body that keeps the marketplace honest and informs audiences about, you know, what’s happening, good and bad.

So, I think there just needs to be that common, you know, just two-way street of appreciation and respect, despite the amount of technological and AI change that is happening around us. So I think that’s a long way of saying, a great discussion on a lot of things that we’ve talked about for a while, but I think it really rang true this time, you know, given everything that’s happening in society.

MF: Yep. I think it’s also always a good reminder, like you said, “Know thy reporter.” There was definitely a section of that talk where we got to hear from them about, you know, typical, typical things when they receive pitches from PR personnel where it can get on their nerves if people don’t do their research on the reporter and really know what they cover what they don’t cover.

So, it’s always good to hear sometimes a more personal, personal approach that’s directly from them. Some will say, you know, “I really don’t cover product announcements,” or “Oh, I really don’t cover research reports,” or, “Hey, that’s great. But my approach is, I’ll take the research report, but I might save it for later. And I might only follow up if I’m actually going to use or contact the source for that.”

SB: Yep. Or, or what, you know, POLITICO and CyberScoop really dug into at the end when we wanted to talk about what does the next four to six months look like from a editorial focus perspective, and election security and AI are going to be priority areas for those outlets in particular. So, if if wanting to engage those reporters at those outlets, you know, you need to be very thoughtful on how to connect the dots to what you are putting forward to what their, you know, primary focus areas and priorities are.

And not doing that, I think, just you know, shows that you’re you’re not understanding and respecting their you know, their priorities and their remits. There’s got to be a sort of a meeting in the middle.

MF: Yeah, I think there’s a big call to action after conversations like that, to make the conversations more than just something transactional, and to get to get above the surface level conversations or mass emails and really, really make it personal to them. I think that on both sides that will make it the relationship one that’s much more easy to work with.

But yeah, so I know we’ve spent some time talking about the reporter side of the conference, but would love to dive into a little bit more about the opposite side of the conference, which is the commercial side, the vendor side of things and how different, you know, cybersecurity companies are approaching the conference. We discussed in our last episode, about the approach going into the conference, and maybe strategies for, you know, pre-pitching reporters or whether it’s how to how to develop your branding messaging and all of that. But, Steve, would love to hear from you on if there was anything in your conversations with executives or maybe attending company panels, were there any topics that those executives were more focused on this year, or maybe things they were concerned about or challenges they were facing?

SB: Um, I think just overall, the overall, you know, sentiment was was really positive, I think more so this year than last year. I think, you know, rewind, you know, a year ago, and there’s a lot of uncertainty going into the second half of the year. Lots of discussion about recession, and budget cuts and pull back, and just a variety of factors where I think the overall feeling was, “Yeah, it’s, it’s great to be here, I just really don’t know what’s going to happen over the next six months, I’m sort of just sort of taking it day by day, week by week.”

And so, fast forward to this year, and just in the weeks leading up to RSA, and you know, at RSA, just you could see a completely different sentiment. I think everyone’s much more upbeat. There’s a lot of different, you know, more funding coming into the marketplace for a number of different young startups, more mature startups. And I think that’s the, I think the overall feeling is that it’s a it’s a much different environment now than it was, you know, a year ago. I’ll bet, you know, different different companies have various challenges in terms of, you know, in terms of meeting growth targets in different markets in terms of how to further demonstrate how their technology and platform can be a long-term player and, you know, have a long term place in a organization’s security stack. Because obviously, a big theme that continues on is, you know, a ton of industry consolidation.

But, again, I think overall, there’s just a ton of excitement and sort of this, you know, sky’s the limit mentality with a number of different companies because I think everyone is much more energized, wanting to bring new ideas and new opportunities to the table. And, I think just in being part of different, you know, media briefings, and, you know, meetings with different executives, and so forth, you know, obviously, the types of customer contacts that are coming in to meet with different cybersecurity vendors, it’s not just CISOs. It’s not just VPs of cybersecurity. It’s CI more CIOs, more CEOs, even CFOs. And so, you know, that further demonstrates how cybersecurity is a much bigger C-suite topic and you know, that that the cybersecurity companies and brands can have a much bigger impact in a lot of ways on a larger swath of the C suite. And so that’s also a pretty exciting thing to be happening.

MF: Yeah, I think that was also one of my key takeaways of being able to go to this conference for the first time. Aside from the media perspective, which I loved meeting, so some reporters who I have, you know, had contact with previously and have worked on various stories with but never got a chance to whether it was on a call or on a zoom call, I hadn’t gotten to, you know, be face to face with them. So, on one hand, that was a really great experience for me to start, you know, building up those relationships and on a more of a human and personal level than just, oh, here’s, here’s what I’m working on, can you cover this kind of thing.

But, even on the vendor side of things, I loved being in person with a lot of our clients. It was, for me, also the first time meeting some of them in-person, and I think it brought it brought a lot of their solutions to life for me. Hearing, I attended a few different panel sessions for some of our clients, and it really helps me better understand when I get to be there in-person with the team and I get to dive in what what they’re working on, what they are innovating, and I think overall, it just helps that storytelling process after the fact.

But yeah, I would say that that was definitely a value that I saw a lot more of from this whole on-site experience from, you know, the remote work life right now it’s a balance. Because I do, I miss being in-person sometimes with my team, but you know, there’s the balance of productivity. I feel like sometimes I can work better, you know, in my own home office, but really, the being in-person has taught me a lot about the storytelling aspect of it. And I think you can cover a lot more, I think you mentioned this earlier, Steve, you can cover a lot more ground when you’re in-person with people, but you also get the emotion behind things, you get more of that narrative, and you get more of the why this matters now beyond just speaking purely in technological terms the whole time. So.

SB: Nope, completely agree. And really, just to sort of bridge it back to, you know, storytelling and media opportunity perspective is, you know, RSA can be a significant and massive noise machine, right? Where different pieces of news can get completely lost in the fold. And, I just think it’s important that even you know, going into the show, and even, you know, post post-show, that, you know, you take a step back, and you look at your entire sort of communications and storytelling mode back and just reiterate to yourself, it’s just, it’s just one moment in time. You can create your own new cycles and own moments and time, the other 51 weeks of the year.

I think there’s this notion of like, “We have to maximize the every single opportunity at RSA and squeeze everything out of it.” And, I think that that’s a good strategy for some brands. For others, it’s, it’s probably not. But I would, you know, just look at it very holistically and with just a note of caution of, you know. Don’t, don’t feel like if you can’t fully optimize RSA week that your entire communications roadmap is up, you know, up in smoke. It’s just one week. And there’s ample opportunity to be creating your own cycles and creating your own moments in time throughout the rest of the year.

And why RSA is so great is that, you know, being in person and talking to clients, and partners and other third parties and so forth, is that it’s a great time to sort of plan for those milestones and moments in time that that brands want to create throughout the rest of the year. And you really, you can’t get that really anywhere else, you know, throughout the year. And that’s why, you know, RSA is just such a great, great week. So yeah.

MF: Really tying into the theme of “Art of possible” there, Steve.

SB: Yes, exactly. Yes.

MF: What a great segue to that.

SB: Yes. I mean, it should really be “Art of THE possible” but, you know, I guess “Art of possible” Yeah. “Art, of possible, and anything’s possible.” So.

MF: Yeah. Well, I think that was a really great recap of our week out there in San Francisco. It was actually not only my first conference there, it was also my first time in San Francisco, so definitely took advantage of that right before RSA. Did some touristy activities got to see the Bay Bridge. Wasn’t used to all of the hills that were there, so that required some extra stamina. But.

SB: Go sea lions.

MF: Go sea lions. But yeah, thank you so much, Steve, for joining me again on the podcast to wrap up this RSA season. Wishing all of our listeners and our audience members a great post-RSA season of planning, and, yep, tune in next time for Inside the Media Minds. Thanks for joining.

SB: Thanks, everybody.

Outro: Thank you for joining us on today’s episode of Inside the Media Minds. To learn more about our podcast and hear all of our episodes please visit us at and follow us on Twitter @MediaMindsShow, and you can subscribe anywhere podcasts are found.