5 Winning PR Strategies for RSA Conference 2015

Tiffany Darmetko

As we gear up for RSA Conference 2015, let’s take a look at five strategic aims that, with proper planning and tactical execution, can yield significant PR successes from the IT security industry’s marquee event.

1)      Building rapport

Developing strong press and analyst relationships takes time, but face-to-face meetings certainly help to expedite the process. RSA Conference provides a unique opportunity for security vendors to gain exposure to the most influential media, analysts and influencers that matter to their business—all under one roof over the course of a week.

The simplest of RSA PR strategies is this: introduce your company to as many key contacts as possible. The PAN security PR team spends the preceding months working diligently behind the scenes to arrange show floor meetings for our clients.

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Image by Yuri Samloilov used under CC license https://www.flickr.com/photos/110751683@N02/

As you attempt to engage with reporters, keep in mind what they are predicting to be this year’s hot topics and position your expertise as part of the broader discussion. “I think the hot topics and discussions will be around finding ways to secure data no matter where it is – in the cloud, in a wireless network, at the partner’s site. And there will be more discussion around incident response and risk management, rather than traditional perimeter security,” says Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson in a recent interview with PAN.

From a press perspective, the payoff often includes both immediate and long-term benefits. In some cases, instant visibility for vendors comes from meeting with reporters who publish articles during the event that summarize key trends, hot companies and interesting news.

Then there’s the lasting effect. It takes only a few minutes at RSA to shake hands with a reporter and run through your company’s areas of expertise and value proposition. The resulting name recognition and familiarity will help to catapult you towards the front of the reporter’s Rolodex. The long-term goal is to get writers to turn to you for expert opinions when soliciting story comments from people they consider to be thought leaders on the topic at hand.  

2)      Supporting social media initiatives

Social and traditional media strategies go hand-in-hand. And of course, owned (social) and earned (traditional) media are key components of an effective, content-centric PR program. In tandem with RSA Conference press meetings, companies can use the event as a strategic platform to expand their influence using social media channels.

A pillar of most IT security content marketing plans, the corporate blog provides a forum for demonstrating thought leadership and innovation to customers, prospects, partners and press members alike. Preceding and immediately following RSA, add conference-specific topics to your content calendar such as blog posts that include write-ups on your company’s own show news, and commentary on, and analysis of, industry news and trends cropping up around the event. Consider inviting a customer to guest author a post on your blog as peer discussions hold more weight with prospects. By encouraging online writers to include a link to your company’s blog and reference its content within their RSA coverage, this in turn refers readers—including prospects—back to your company’s Web site.

The PAN team is integrally involved in distributing and optimizing (as well as creating) content for our clients. For example, the PAN team personally shares client blog posts with targeted media contacts (and via social channels like Twitter and LinkedIn as appropriate). 

When it comes to Twitter, tweeting from RSA – using the hashtag #RSAC – increases the effectiveness of your media strategy. Twitter can be used to make short observations about RSA and drive traffic to your blog posts. Busy reporters, in particular, benefit from Twitter updates as many of them are tied up covering keynote sessions and may not be able to allocate time for booth meetings with vendors. Here’s a tip: Plan in advance for one of your executives or researchers to attend and live tweet from select RSA keynotes. For PAN clients who do so, we give media a heads up that this live tweeting will be happening and encourage reporters to follow the company on Twitter for real-time insights.   

Incorporate social media into your booth plans as well. Think about ways to turn foot traffic into followers, for example: offer a contest that fosters social engagement or encourage booth visitors to follow the company Twitter handle and tweet an answer to your daily RSA quiz question for the promise of a prize to lucky respondents who answer correctly. 

3)      Leveraging Research for Media Home Runs

If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Research, that is. Infosec reporters are fans of research and statistics and announcing significant findings at RSA can be a show stealer. As an example, Dark Reading’s Tim Wilson says, “We’re looking for news that identifies new threats, or trends in attacks. We’re also looking for new data that shows that a particular type of defense is really working.”

To capitalize on research capabilities for PR purposes, the first step is to determine what, if any, research is currently being done in-house, is planned for the near future, or could possibly be started with brainstorming assistance from PAN.

In the absence of formalized research projects in the works, PAN can offer a multitude of recommended ways for security companies to tap into their market and customer analysis potential in order to produce stats and data. The concept of vendor-commissioned, independently conducted surveys and studies is a topic for another day, but for the purposes of this post, I will say that, at minimum, security companies should encourage their employees who interface with customers to keep an ear out for any new or noteworthy customer inquiries that may indicate an emerging trend. This type of trend identification and analysis fuels the oh-so-important PR thought leadership campaigns we formulate and execute for clients. 

Regarding in-progress research projects, PAN works with clients to determine which details can be made public and their degree of newsworthiness. There are almost always interesting nuggets contained within that can be extracted and shared with media in a compelling way without sacrificing more classified data points. We specialize in distilling down the subject matter to find and prioritize key points that will be most interesting to press and strategic to your business. Then, we advise clients on when, where and how to effectively communicate this information.

4)      Lead generation

News is one of the biggest drivers of media interest at a tradeshow. Significant product news, specifically, is the kind of news that predictably drives leads when delivered to the right audience. From a traditional media relations standpoint, this means reaching targeted readers/viewers with purchasing power.

When formulating your pitch, it is important to look at things from the journalist’s point of view. Reporters anticipate that companies will announce news in conjunction with RSA and brace for the barrage of incoming calls and emails, about the latest and greatest to hit the market. However, they quickly grow numb to the onslaught of requests for attention (and annoyed by overuse of words like “revolutionary” by vendors). This in mind, companies must couple smart decisions about what news to announce and when, with aggressive yet structured PR efforts to differentiate themselves from the masses.

Take a look at your product roadmaps, customer pipelines, partner deals and other accomplishments, and make a call about which items would time best with RSA. If there is concern that your news may be eclipsed at RSA, then it’s probably best to hold off. Small vendors might be wise to use RSA mainly as a relationship-building forum, rather than a platform for issuing news. On the other hand, if the particular news item can hold its own, then the conference could indeed be a good time to meet face-to-face with press to discuss it—and at minimum be mentioned in round-up stories that string together a summary list of vendor announcements from the show in advance of the announcement and the event. Further consider offering a sneak peak of the news to media. This way, you have the chance to equip reporters with the facts while they still have time to stop and listen to you pre-RSA chaos.

If you do decide to announce news at RSA, the first step is creating a press release on the selected accomplishments. A strong press release will include quotes from a customer, partner, and/or industry analyst to support the vendor’s claims stated within. Plus, press releases are great for supporting SEO. The news then funnels directly into social media strategy with companies blogging and tweeting about it, among other things.

Business Wire is the official news release distribution and online press center service for RSA Conference 2015. Distributing your news and digital content via Business Wire means it automatically posts to the show exhibitor news archive for easy access. Don’t forget to also share the release on your website.

 5)      Highlighting real-world implementations and benefits

Customers are PR gold. The best forms of product and company validation for security vendors come from reputable third-party endorsements. Sure, cultivating customer references can be a challenge for some vendors, such as those in emerging growth stages. But all it takes is one reference to get the ball rolling. We at PAN are cognizant of the many sensitivities involved with convincing customers to go on-record. On the same token, we have lots of experience helping clients to start, structure and gradually grow their customer reference program. The goal is to get your customers to tell your story for you.

It certainly helps press meeting requests to stand out from the crowd if vendors can offer a reporter the ability to speak with a customer at the conference—preferably one with particularly interesting deployment details to share, including ROI. If your customers are going to be at RSA, try to get them on camera for a video testimonial that can be posted to your company’s Web site and YouTube channel, along with other marketing uses. Logistically it works best to secure customer permission prior to the event.

Video content usually features the customer talking about:

  • Why they chose to purchase a security product
  • How it fits into their overall security architecture/strategy
  • What challenges they faced beforehand that prompted the purchase
  • How the technology has helped them to save money, increase productivity, reduce risk, curb helpdesk calls, or whatever the benefits may be—to the degree they feel comfortable commenting

Remember to position your technology offering as part of a defense-in-depth strategy for potential buyers. As Dark Reading Editor Tim Wilson advises, “Vendors are obviously going to RSA to promote their own solutions, but they aren’t doing anyone any favors by telling everyone that their product is going to solve everything. The vendors need to start aligning their products in a way that helps enterprises build a comprehensive defense. Enterprises don’t use single security products in a vacuum – vendors should stop selling them that way.”

What are your event strategies?  Did we miss anything? Please drop me a line at tdarmetko@pancomm.com if you have questions or leave a comment below.

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