Hot Takes on RSAC 2023 – The PR Perspective

By Loren Guertin

Let’s face it, everything that happened last week at RSAC – the world’s biggest cybersecurity conference – has already been well documented. Over 40,000 cybersecurity pros streamed into San Francisco ready to take over the massive Moscone Center, showcasing their latest product innovations, meeting with customers and prospects, and entertaining and enticing attendees at their eye-catching booths. It was the place to “see and be seen,” and those of us in the industry were better off for it.

There was genuine enthusiasm and energy throughout the week (aided perhaps by the perfectly sunny, 70-degree weather). Beyond the Expo floor, every sidewalk, cafe, restaurant, WeWork space and hotel lobbies like the St. Regis and Hyatt Regency were flooded with crowds gathering to share unique perspectives on the state of cybersecurity today and discuss what lies ahead for the industry.

If you’re a cyber leader or an IT pro attending RSAC, the conference is an immersive learning expertise, with opportunities to share distinct points of view and hear those of others — all while working towards the common goal of becoming better defenders against highly motivated and increasingly sophisticated attackers.

If you’re in a PR or marketing role, like I am, RSAC offers you the opportunity to get immersed in the industry as well — but it provides a few unique experiences. Here’s what was top of mind from a PR/marketing perspective after attending the conference.

scenes from rsac 2023

The Media Coverage

The media presence was comprehensive, and coverage was thorough and ultra-competitive to try to crack. With some reporters telling us they received over 400 pitches from PR people inviting them to meet with their companies or clients, many only booked 15-20 meetings for the entire conference. CRN’s Kyle Alspach wrote a series of round-up stories throughout the week, including the “20 Hottest Cybersecurity Products At RSAC 2023.” ISMG also conducted interviews with top cyber executives, including Peter Bauer, CEO of Mimecast and Mark McClain, CEO of SailPoint.

And of course, there was the long list of articles around the hottest topic and “unofficial theme” of RSA – generative AI – including TechTarget’s Alex Culafi’s article, “Rising AI tide sweeps over RSA Conference, cybersecurity.” In another piece in CRN, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Vasu Jakkal said, “This is the Industrial Revolution 5.0, when AI becomes mainstream.” There was also a fair amount of coverage around operational technology (OT) and securing critical infrastructure, including the launch of ETHOS, an early warning system that could help spot and avert damaging attacks on OT.

The Keynote Experience

Although I wasn’t able to attend every keynote, the several I caught did not disappoint. These included an enlightening interview with the FIFA World Cup organizers about the monumental task of securing the event — efforts that took over five years to achieve. It was an impressive undertaking, built around public- and private-sector collaboration.

I also had the opportunity to hear Mandiant/Google Cloud CEO Kevin Mandia discuss the Cybersecurity Year in Review. His speech was positive and hopeful, pointing to a drop in the global median of attackers’ dwell time (non-ransomware) from 36 days in 2021 to 17 days in 2022. He also shared concerns of CISOs, here are the top five:

  • Threats (Taiwan, Ukraine, espionage, financial crime, ransomware)
  • Retain, recruit, train, culture
  • Executive presence – briefing the BOD
  • D&O insurance
  • Supply chain security

To balance out the keynotes addressing the pressing concerns of cyber pros, attendees were treated to a keynote session by Monty Python’s Eric Idle, who humorously urged the crowd to always look on the bright side of life.

Meeting Clients in Person

Since we all transitioned to Zoom meetings in 2020, opportunities to meet with our clients in person have been few and far between. In some cases, we’ve never had the chance to do so. The power of in-person connections goes a long way to solidifying relationships and strengthening our knowledge of our clients’ businesses as well as their challenges and opportunities. RSAC and its organizers did an outstanding job of creating dedicated spaces for networking and media interviews within the event center – a welcome perk for PR pros. I appreciated the opportunity to attend media and analyst briefings, meet with clients one-on-one over lunch or drinks, and introduce myself to several new companies we hope to work with in the future.

Beyond the Moscone Center

My Matter colleagues and I made the conscious effort to venture beyond the walls of the Moscone Center to truly experience the event’s extracurricular activities held throughout the host city. We kicked off the event with a lovely dinner at Fog Harbor on Pier 39, boasting amazing views of the San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. We also attended several industry parties, including Drata and DataGrail’s Rooftop Hapi Hour and Optiv’s RSAC After Party. I even had the good fortune of attending several analyst briefings in the stunning Salesforce Tower with beautiful, sweeping views of the city. As San Francisco’s newest landmark, getting in is like trying to break into Fort Knox, but do try to visit sometime if you ever have the chance.

Let’s Do It All Again in ’24!

No matter what role you play in your organization, we all view and experience RSAC from wherever we sit. Which leads me to a final thought.

As my Uber driver took me to the airport, he paused and looked out the window as we sat in traffic, watching attendees filling the sidewalks, walking swiftly and chatting happily. He said, “RSAC makes it feel like the Old San Francisco, when things were thriving. We like when you all come to town.”

That stuck with me.

RSAC brought so much life and positivity to San Francisco and the city did a great job welcoming the cybersecurity community to the area and providing us all with a wonderful moment in time to share our best ideas, wisdom and lessons learned. We are certainly “Stronger Together” and the benefits of being able to be back in person in full force were palpable. See you all again in May 2024!

Whether you attended RSAC, are a cyber professional or want to learn more about how we support our industry leading clients through integrated communications programs – we’d love to chat! Reach out below and our team will be in touch.