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March 29, 2017

Anna Ruth Williams

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Partner

The Internet of Things (IoT), the cybersecurity skills gap, pessimism surrounding Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies, and Russia’s hacking of the U.S. election dominated the dialogue at the annual RSA conference in San Francisco last month.This year, more than 550 companies descended on the Moscone Center to showcase their products and services to CISOs, CSOs and other security professionals responsible for maintaining the integrity, availability and confidentiality of their organizations’ digital and physical assets.

I’ve written before about the unprecedented challenges that cyber marketers and PR teams face in trying to persuade perhaps the most skeptical buyer personas (enterprise security pros) of any industry. But it’s not just buyers who are difficult to convince, it’s increasingly the cyber media. Just a few weeks ago, Kevin Beaver wrote in Security Intelligence, “I do believe that most information security leaders should isolate themselves from marketing banter.”

The cynicism that propagates cybersecurity media and marketing isn’t going away; and such incredulity has propelled media to alter how it covers events like RSA. Just a few years ago, it was possible for PR teams to engage journalists a month before the show, and if the company had something newsworthy, novel or interesting, teams could schedule a briefing. Now, despite more media attending RSA than in years past, it’s harder than ever to gain the media’s ear even when your client truly has something of interest to them; unless you’re pending or post IPO, a unicorn or a speaker, of course.

So, what did gauge the interest of media at RSA 2017? Here’s a look at some of the biggest news stories from this year’s event:

Government Technology

 We Are Losing the Cyber Defense Battle: House Committee Chairman on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told the conference “we are in the fight of our digital lives,” citing huge gaps in intelligence sharing as a primary concern for U.S. national security. Multiple publications reported on this session.

SC Magazine

 Cryptography experts cast doubt on AI's role in cybersecurity: The biggest buzzwords (artificial intelligence and machine learning) of RSA 2017 were said to be exposed by a group of cryptographers during a keynote session, citing AI and ML as “not useful” in dealing with anomalous situations. More than half the companies exhibiting at RSA took issue with this assessment, for sure.

The Intercept

 Trump’s Cyber Plan a Big No Show at Key Event: Many attendees were hopeful to learn specific details of President Trump’s cybersecurity plan. Unfortunately, according to The Intercept, “The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether it had sent a representative to San Francisco for the week, and previous requests for comment on plans for the cybersecurity executive order went unanswered.”

eWEEK

 Industry Group Exposes Skills Gap for Cyber Jobs: The skills gap and employee shortage plaguing cybersecurity isn’t anything new; but a report released by ISACA at RSA highlighted the urgency and magnitude of the problem. One of the most problematic findings: “25 percent of candidates have the qualifications employers need to keep companies secure.”

TechTarget

 RSA Conference 2017: Are software regulations coming for developers? The need for IoT cybersecurity regulations has been debated for the past couple of years. But with a plethora of unsecured hardware and software products set to reach critical mass in the next 3-5 years, are regulations inevitable? IT security expert Bruce Schneier argued in favor of regulations, while predicting that they are inevitable whether the industry likes it or not.

What Cyber Startups Can Learn from RSA 2017 Media Coverage

In years past, many cyber companies could successfully capitalize on RSA to drive awareness and perception of their brand, products and services through earned media.

While certainly not every media door is closed for emerging and growth-stage cyber companies, the days of utilizing RSA to meet with every journalist to share your product or solution and rejoice in the forthcoming coverage are long gone – no matter how hard the marketing and PR teams try. Today’s cyber companies that make news at RSA do so because they have a voice in the industry’s biggest debates. They have executives who publicly engage in dialogue about controversial, challenging and even unpopular topics year-round. They have experiences to share that don’t promote a “buy my product agenda.”

Yes, it may take a bit longer to supplant your brand within these year-round debates and conversations, but doing so is worth the time and investment. By augmenting product messaging and content with a comprehensive marketing strategy comprised of thought leadership, speaking, research, reports and other less overtly promotional initiatives, your company will gain the respect of reporters. In doing so, journalists will not just be more likely to respond to your meeting requests at RSA 2018, but perhaps they will proactively approach you.

Want to know how Alloy works with cybersecurity companies to #makenews and #driveleads? Check out our video case study here.