Alloy logo

February 13, 2020

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

woman sitting at conference

In just a few short weeks more than 45,000 cybersecurity professionals from around the world will converge in San Francisco’s Moscone Center for the 2020 RSA Conference, where more than 540 vendors from across the cybersecurity landscape will showcase their solutions and services to potential buyers, and of course the hundreds of credentialed press who walk the floors for five days.

It’s hard to believe that this year marks my seventh trip as a cybersecurity PR professional to RSAC. My first pilgrimage to RSA was in 2008 when an estimated 18,000 security professionals were in attendance -- which at the time I thought was a pretty big show. 

Since then, I’ve worked with a wide variety of cyber clients to help them plan and execute integrated PR strategies focused on wringing out the most value from the largest line item in their event budget. 

I’ve had my triumphs and Lord knows, I’ve suffered my share of mishaps. And over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two that will hopefully help you get the most PR bang for your RSA investment:

6 Cybersecurity PR Tips For a Successful #RSAC

  1. Package Up Briefing Requests: The ratio of vendors to press at RSA is as you might imagine, alarmingly disproportionate. For every journalist who registers for a press badge, there are hundreds of vendors competing for their attention and trying to convince them to come to their booth for a demo and/or schedule a meet and greet with their CEO. However, unless you are unveiling something truly groundbreaking, you should think instead about ways to elevate your brand message and package up a story that includes time with complementary vendors, customers, or partners.

  2. Be Smart about Engaging Press: Registered press will typically receive and wear a designated ‘Media Badge’ that serves as a virtual beacon for attention-hungry vendors. While common sense and basic manners would make this seem obvious enough, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a vendor’s PR person interrupt a journalist in the middle of a conversation (and one time memorably, in the bathroom). As you can imagine, it never ends well. If you do see a journalist on the show floor, just think about what Ann Landers would counsel: be polite, respect their personal space, and don’t hijack the conversation. 

  3. Ditch the Press Kit: Between endless booth giveaways and marketing collateral, it’s hard to leave the show without an extra bag to haul it all away. And the last thing anyone wants to do is return home with more paper. When I first started going to RSA, I would visit the press room once or twice a day to check that my client’s press kits were fully stocked. These days, I recommend that clients either package up their press kit materials on a branded USB stick or send them a link to an online version in your email follow-up. 

  4. Avoid Product News: Unless you’re introducing an objectively innovative solution, chances are the new version of your technology will be eclipsed by all the other noise, err, news. Moreover, cyber press tend to be less interested in product features and more interested in relaying trends that are driving the market. You’ll have much better luck scoring time with a key editor or analyst if you pitch them on sharing details from a forthcoming data report or survey. 

  5. Be Wary of Creative Stunts: Every year, there’s always a couple of scrappy vendors who don their creative hats and decide to do something wacky to try and make themselves stand out from the crowd. And all too often, these stunts can backfire in spectacular fashion. Last year, one security vendor decided to stage a protest to bring attention to worker burnout and the talent gap and was promptly kicked out of the event for violating the terms and conditions of the conference agreement. While the news of their getting booted from RSA got plenty of coverage, I have a hard time believing it was worth the tens of thousands of dollars they sunk into the show. 

  6. Amplify Your Social Presence: Amidst all the activity at RSA it’s easy to forget about your social presence but increasingly, it’s how attendees organize and prioritize their time. Rather than tasking one individual with maintaining your social activity, invest the time upfront in training all attendees on social protocols and empower them to amplify your message and engage your audience leading up to and through the conference.

I’m a big fan of productivity guru David Allen and his Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology which encourages the use of checklists which in his words, ‘make experts better at what they do’. Here are some of my checklist items that you can use to supplement your own:

RSA PR Checklist

__ Press briefing materials (and take special care to ensure they are not left behind!) 

__ One-page schedule matrix of employees and booth schedule

__ Everyone’s contact info (both printed out and easily accessible on phone)

__ Remind attendees to download the official RSA App 

__ Connect with press and analysts on LinkedIn as part of your follow-up

__ Identify secondary meeting space options

__ USB press kits & special SWAG for press

__ Business cards for Execs/PR Reps

__ Wire-bound print out of corporate presentation

__ Portable, offline version of product demo for an iPad (when not at your booth or having connectivity issues)

__ Wifi Hotspot (always assume you WON’T have connectivity!)

Interested in talking more about effective cybersecurity PR and marketing strategies and meeting up @ RSA? Drop me a line and let me buy you a cup of coffee. See you in San Fran!