By Matt Sarrel
RSA 2011 is right around the corner and most, if not all, security companies are in full overdrive preparing for the show. Despite the fact that I think otherwise, this is the one week a year when security is sexy. News reporters, bloggers, and analysts flock to beautiful Moscone Center in San Francisco to find out what is new in the wild world of security. How can you make sure that your efforts to capture eyeballs will bear fruit for your company?
As a journalist (10 years with PCMag.com, 3 with eweek.com, 2 with CIOUpdate, 1 with GigaOM), I’ve seen just about every attention getting tactic on earth. And to tell you the truth, the more complex the tactic the less useful the meeting. The guiding principle should be that journalists are rushed for time and you need to provide them with the information they need fast.
My biggest tip is NEVER hand a journalist a printed press kit. This will end up right in the garbage can across the aisle from your booth. I have enough to sift through and carry around that I really don’t want your printed press kit. Besides, do you think I’m going to throw out some shwag so I can carry your folder? Not! Put the press kit on a USB memory key with your logo on it. Now the journalist gets something of value that’s easy to carry.
An often overlooked resource is the press room and the online press center. Distribute news through these channels. Last week there was not a single vendor related press release up on the Virtual Press Center. Could it be that no one wants to get my attention?
When booking meetings, understand a journalist’s coverage area, what he/she has written about before, how he’s covering the show, and whether the article will be a blurb in a blog or a fully crafted article for print. Remember, you are there to meet our needs, not vice versa. For example, I can guarantee you that you’re going to have the shortest meeting of your life if you thank me and PC World (who I have never written for) for meeting with you.
Speaking of meetings, it would be a good idea to prepare. Have the journalists picture and read some of his relevant articles. This way when I walk up to your booth you recognize me and we’re ready to go. Be respectful of a journalist’s time and fatigue. That should be your guiding principle. Between pounding the show floor for 8 hours a day for a week and going to all the cocktail hours, dinners, and after parties, the VP of Marketing who pulls up a chair for me and hands me a bottle of water truly separates himself from the others.
During the meeting, pay attention to the journalist. Don’t just drone on and on and on and on, oh, I got lost there. Following your powerpoint or reading your press release to me isn’t going to help you get coverage. You could have emailed those to me before the show. Pay attention to body language. Is the journalist taking notes? If she seems checked out, then maybe suggest a follow up call for the week after the show.
One final bit of advice – don’t stalk journalists. You know what I’m talking about. We get a little red ribbon on our badges that says we’re press. So there’s always some eager beaver PR guy who stands in the main entrance and essentially attacks every red ribbon wearing member of the press as we enter the exhibit floor. No means no. I have a strict timetable to adhere to – usually on the order of 60-70 half hour meetings over the course of the week – and you’re not going to get a positive reaction from me if you slow me down. I once even went so far as to shove an insistent pitcher out of my way (it reminded me of the scene in Airplane where he can’t walk through the airport because the Hari Krishnahs are swarming him). To be fair, this isn’t always a bad tactic, just be polite about it.
Just remember, in the words of Alexander Graham Bell, “before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”