It’s RSA time again. With 50,000 expected attendees from all over the world, the RSA Conference is the place to be for anyone wanting to make their mark in information security. Given the number of cybersecurity and privacy clients our firm is privileged to serve, we have a lot of firsthand experience with RSA—and how it’s changed over the years. We’re offering some key insights to help you get the most out of this exciting but potentially overwhelming phenomenon.
With the conference falling in April this year, vendors who want to make news there may be feeling now in early March that they still have time. If you haven’t been working on RSA communications and media plans for at least a couple of months, you’re going to need to move fast. Reporters generally take more briefings than will fit into their writing schedules. And by three weeks out, for this year end of March, they’re mainly focusing on breaking news.
If you fit into the running-behind camp, stop everything else and develop a realistic plan NOW to still get a return out of the significant investment RSA requires. Our RSA 2018 Public Relations Survival Strategies offers some useful tips.
What’s making news?
As we’ve seen over the last several years, reporters’ interest in product-related announcements during RSA is greatly diminishing. With only a handful of reporters covering product and service announcements, even major feature overhauls or brand new solutions, which struggle to move the needle during most of the year, get less attention in the weeks leading up to RSA.
Research and data are what get proactive news coverage, although journalists are getting increasingly wary of “research” reports with vague methodologies, unclear conclusions or insights that do not inform the end user. Media are looking for hard facts that impact and inform the business decisions most important to their readers. But even reports are being met with resistance this year – just last week a recognized reporter implored anyone with great content to hold it until after the over-saturation of RSA.
Journalists, analysts and other influencers also want to talk to insightful experts, not necessarily vendors—an important distinction. Being a CEO, product manager or marketing leader does not automatically bestow intrigue in reporters’ minds. Journalists’ time is scarce during RSA’s wall-to-wall activity, so lead with an expert’s background and career insights in offering a 1:1 meeting, not her or his business card. As recently as this week, a well-respected business reporter shared with me his desire to connect with “characters” and experts that can help him with a narrative. In his words, “the technology is secondary to a great story.”
It’s optimal if you can tie your messages to other themes that tend to shape the news cycles leading up to and during RSA; for example, the amount of capital flowing into security, keynote addresses calling attention to end user challenges, and venturing ideas on how the industry can improve.
The Realities of RSA
RSA used to be a numbers game – “We met with eight reporters last year, so we need ten 1:1 briefings this year.” But over the last several years, we’ve seen reporters taking fewer scheduled meetings and dedicating more time to conference sessions and events. As I noted above, reporters’ and other influencers’ schedules fill-up quickly, which means you need to be realistic and prioritize the types of media conversations that will actually interest them and be beneficial for you. Forget the massive RSA media attendee list and prioritize a handful of select reporters covering the technology and industry sector issues most relevant to you today. Identify the insights your company’s CEO, researchers or customers could offer in conversations with these select reporters, and do tightly-focused outreach accordingly.
Besides, prioritizing your most relevant substance to the right reporters always yields better results for everyone than chasing some arbitrary interview quota. Bear in mind you can always use RSA’s numerous social events for quick, casual introductions with reporters and others you meet.
Is RSA Worth It?
Despite the crowds and the high PR noise level, RSA remains an excellent forum to meet with reporters, establish relationships and position your company as an interesting resource for current and future media opportunities. Always remember that reporters are there looking for credible references they can use to broaden their contacts and call on when news breaks. Even if you’re still in planning mode, a thoughtful, highly focused planning effort that reflects the guidelines offered in this post can still help you carry a compelling message and put your best foot forward at this crazy busy signature event.
For our part, W2 Communications is seeking to help create forums for this type of connection. This year we are bringing our successful CYBERTACOS meet-the-press and networking event to San Francisco. Perhaps we’ll see you there!
Tom Resau is Senior Vice President of W2 Communications’ Cybersecurity and Privacy Practice.