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What Are Your ‘Elite 8’ Best Practices for Attending a PR Event?

Andrew Grzywacz

Andrew Grzywacz

How is your bracket coming along? No, we don’t just mean for the NCAA – there’s a whole different kind of March Madness sweeping through the PR world this month, and it was all kicked off by RSA 2016.

March is one of the busiest times of year for tech PR agencies due to the frenzy of events going on, but there are few bigger names around – especially in the security sector – than RSA. We recently attended this month’s RSA show with one of our clients, Mimecast, to promote its cloud-based email archiving and security solutions among the crowds of journalists and vendors, who were there to discuss the hottest cybersecurity topics this year: encryption, ransomware, whaling, and of course, Apple and the FBI.

But, these shows can be massive endeavors, and not coming into one fully prepared – armed with a full-fledged bracket of best practices – can leave a PR agency scrambling and its clients underwhelmed with a lack of media opportunities or coverage. To get the most out of shows like RSA and best serve your clients, make sure your events preparedness bracket is filled out and that you’ve nailed down these Elite 8 practices across four key segments:

Influencer Relations

1. Pre-Pitch Strategy

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single email. Begin your pre-pitch strategy by reaching out to the conference organizers two months ahead of the event for the list of attending press and analysts. Be sure to follow up regularly to request the latest version of the list, as new registrants will likely continue to be added in the weeks leading up to the event. Once you’ve obtained the attendee list, you’ll need to identify the relevant, key targets for your client. As RSA covers everything from next-generation security to the dark web, it was important for Mimecast that we only pitched on-site briefings to contacts who would be interested in email security and archiving.

2. Newsworthy Announcement

So you have the pitch list ready to go, but what about the pitch itself? What are you going to use to hook these contacts that have already received hundreds of other pitches from tech PR people just like you? Ask your client if there are any imminent product launches or company news that could be announced right before the event and leveraged in your pitching strategy. By teasing the upcoming launch of Mimecast’s research report in our pitches to RSA attendees, we were able to secure multiple on-site briefings with contacts who were eager to discuss the report’s findings. Once the press release announcing the research was issued, we were also able to use the news to follow up with and hook media that we hadn’t heard back from yet.

Maximizing the Opportunity

3. On-site PR Support

Gaining access to a conference press list to undertake a pre-pitch strategy is key, as outlined above; but, even more crucial is having on-site PR support to help further maximize media interviews and analyst briefings. For instance, at RSA, we were able to secure six briefings in advance of the conference for Mimecast, but our team member on the ground was able to set up three more briefings while at the event, with an additional 13 influencer conversations or touch points. This not only helped maximize awareness and press coverage generation, but it also furthered important influencer relationships that we had been cultivating on Mimecast’s behalf for years.

4. Local Opportunities

The event itself is one thing, but the city it’s being held in is another. Certain locations offer additional opportunities for PR teams to maximize on behalf of their clients, especially if they’re a hub for press. And, San Francisco is certainly one of those hubs. So, while there were a plethora of media already at RSA itself, we looked beyond the conference to other media influencers in the Bay Area that we could arrange in-person briefings with outside of the event. For Mimecast’s CEO, that meant stepping away from RSA to meet with media we had secured from the Financial Times, TechCrunch and PC World.

Integrated Marcomms

5. Lead Gen

Sales lead generation is one of the primary objectives of any integrated marketing and communications effort at an industry conference. Beyond scanning badges, doing giveaways and collecting business cards, having quality, relevant content that’s gated can be another prime lead generator. For Mimecast, that meant gating the webpages to their research report and eBook that launched just before the conference and directing people to the bespoke URL.

6. Social Media

It’s important to have a good mix of pre-prepared and live social media posts during events. Showcasing your presence is important for those also on-site as well as those who were unable to attend. But, a strategic plan goes beyond just amplifying your attendance with photos of your booth and using the conference hashtag. It means integrating thoughtful perspectives on other event happenings like keynotes, engaging with other attendees or media and promoting other aspects of the event like vendor receptions.


7. Spokesperson Availability

While all of the above is critical to pulling off a successful media relations campaign at an event, perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle is making sure your client’s spokespeople are available for all scheduled and last minute briefings. “Executives’ schedules are often quite full at industry events as it is,” says Stephanie Jackman, Account Manager and RSA veteran. “So, it’s helpful to have more than one client spokesperson on-site that is comfortable with the messaging and speaking to the media. It makes it much easier to juggle schedules around and squeeze in that interview with a great influencer that you and your client don’t want to pass up.”

8. Influencer Availability

Leading up to the event, make sure that the influencers you’ve secured briefings with have all the pertinent, accurate details for when and where the meeting will be taking place. Add an extra layer of security by sending the journalist contact information for a team member that will be on-site at the event. Lastly, keep an eye out for the media and analyst contacts you weren’t able to connect with over email who are walking the show floor. By taking that in-person approach at RSA, Stephanie was able to secure multiple media opportunities for Mimecast and create beneficial relationships with numerous journalists.