High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

Lessons from RSA 2018: Amplifying Key Messages at Industry Conferences

Another RSA has come and gone. Sales and communications teams across the security industry can finally take a moment to slow down and celebrate a job well done. At least until they need to start preparing for Black Hat.

Year after year, the conference has gotten bigger. This year, there were 50,000 security professionals, executives, and vendors in San Francisco milling about the show. And yet for all of the ballooning attendance, the media landscape at the show has changed drastically from years past.

The growth of the show has made many reporters skittish, with many top-tier reporters deciding not to attend this year after citing the increasing corporate nature of the show. This is not a problem confined to RSA, but one that affects every growing conference.

But there are still plenty of opportunities to amplify key messages during these shows. Here are a few ways to make your communications activities at big conferences successful.

Get Friendly with Reporters

If you don’t know the reporters in your space well ahead of the show, getting them to make time for you during the show will be difficult. Their time is limited as they need to balance catching up with old contacts, meeting up-and-coming influencers, taking in key learnings from the show overall, and writing stories.

To make sure you are one of the people on their list, make sure you know what they are interested in before the show. One key reporter at a new tech publication noted that his job often gets him caught up in the day-to-day happenings of the security space, meaning that these conferences are good times for him to get a sense for the bigger picture. Another reporter at an influential security trade publication noted that his plan this year was to explore one topic in-depth that he decided close to the show.

On the other hand, some reporters are only driven by newsworthy events. Don’t be afraid to set up times to chat with them in the weeks before the show to discuss key points from talks or announcements that will go live during the show. Many reporters write pieces in advance to publish that week before their schedule fills up.

Knowing what drives reporters’ agendas at the show is not something that you can guess the week before the conference and hope to have a full schedule. Instead, get to know them as people and strive to understand how you can help them get what they need.

Leverage Social

It’s also important to remember that conferences are great grounds for strong content across social platforms. Not only are a lot of people focused on the same topic at the same time—even narrowed down to a few hashtags—but since many attendees are less focused on work, they have more attention to focus on social media.

Make sure to use the strong images from the show as content to help make individual posts more visually appealing. Tagging relevant people, such as speakers at the show, employees partners or visitors, can also boost engagement by making a human connection and expanding the audience of viewers.

Always make sure to leverage any news coming out around the conference to generate more content, especially if it has lasting impact beyond the conference. People attend these conferences for insights they can use, so they are even more likely to engage with social activity with direct impact on their roles.

Explore Content Alternatives

As the media landscape changes, many publications are looking for alternative ways to make ends meet. Many more publications are open to working with vendors to create sponsored content that relates back to their key messages. With the right planning and promotion strategy, sponsored content can have nearly as big an impact as earned media.

Strong sponsored content highlights the expertise of your spokespeople by discussing major industry trends and sharing thought-provoking opinions, just as they would in earned media. The advantage is that you have more control over what happens to the content after publication. In addition to appearing on the publication website, these pieces can be shared on social media, syndicated to corporate blogs, and reused ahead of the next conference.

These relationships can also do double duty in a few different ways. If you conduct these interviews at your show booth and film them, they can act as part of your conference programming, drawing more visitors or potential leads out of the show. These are also strong opportunities to get face time with these reporters so they get to know you and your company better for their future coverage needs.

Crowded conferences are just a fact of life in the communications field. More attendees mean more potential sales leads, but also more competition for mind time. Vendor communications teams have their work cut out for them, but there are still plenty of opportunities to break through the noise and tell a good story.