RSA 2015: Does the Security Industry Need a Reality Check?

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Yes, it’s that time of year again: The RSA conference is the world’s flagship security technology tradeshow and later this month it will be back in San Francisco. To prepare for the event, the Blanc & Otus Analyst Relations team spoke with many prominent analysts regarding the likely hot topics at this year’s show. Several themes quickly emerged from those discussions – some of which vendors should be worried about:

Vendor marketing is increasingly diverging from reality: While powerful marketing is part and parcel of being a successful vendor, analysts are becoming increasingly fatigued with vendor hype within overcrowded segments. Expect to see more and more research notes countering vendor claims, especially on areas of contentious category creation. Many analysts told us that they increasingly see the show’s value as centering on various networking opportunities, rather than the content vendors provide during the show.

AR Recommendation: When approaching new narratives and messaging work, marketing and communications teams should be asking themselves: “How can we best tell compelling and useful stories?”

CISOs…sweating in the spotlight: The pace of high-profile breaches is increasing and security has never been higher up the boardroom agenda than it is today. While this attention may help the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) secure much-needed funding for security initiatives and technologies, it also increases pressure on them to deliver. Some CISOs do a fine job of explaining their strategies to their boards, peers and the broader company, but too many revert to the comfort zone of ‘speeds and feeds’ speak, and as a result they don’t address business risk succinctly and compellingly enough. This ultimately leads to a failure to secure the necessary behavioral changes at the cultural level, which drastically impacts their ability to deliver in the long term. With growing numbers of ‘non-IT’ executives running their own shadow IT investments beyond IT’s control, this challenge is only increasing.

AR Recommendation: When framing up sales enablement materials prior to launch, sales teams should ask themselves: “How can I help my clients succeed in winning hearts and minds within the business?”

The user politics of digital transformation are unstoppable: Technology has always been successful based on user acceptance at a behavioral and cultural level. This has always been a particular challenge for security teams who have historically wanted to lock assets down. However, the shift towards digital business models – based on cloud, mobile, social and Internet of Things-based technologies – means that old ‘lock down’ style security models simply aren’t feasible (if they ever were). While pioneering vendors are improving the usability of their solutions, they often do a much less compelling job when it comes to addressing the cultural, political and procedural impact of security technologies – specifically how security teams and processes can work with (rather than against) the business. To succeed, security must become invisible.

AR Recommendation: When creating content to support a product launch, product management teams must consider: “How do I articulate how this new technology changes the way the business operates?”

There are no easy answers here. Standing out from the crowd in 2015 – without being excessive – is a real challenge. However, vendors should keep themselves honest by running regular reality checks as the year progresses. Remember:

  • Narrative Always Trumps Messaging – It’s great to have a well-crafted product message, but that hard work is wasted if the broader narrative it sits within isn’t also working. A great narrative generates interesting viral conversations by generating questions and answers that can play back to product strengths. Does the narrative gel with the end user’s experience and situation? Messages need roots.
  • Authenticity Has Never Mattered More – Yes, perceptions matter, but ultimately it is reality and the facts on the ground that makes or breaks careers. Be sure you can stand out with a smart idea, but you must also stand by your claim and own it. Does the excitement of the initial concept marry the possible with the probable?
  • Research Hard, Fail Fast and Re-iterate – Research can make all the difference, turning early adversity into future opportunity. Take a DevOps approach to your communications activities – use analyst inquiry and messaging sessions to quickly develop Kevlar for your Narrative prior to launch. Better to fail early, and then quickly re-iterate your way to success, than continue with an approach that’s not working.

So what’s got you excited about this year’s RSA? If you have an RSA story to share, or want to discuss how analysts can help bulletproof your story then drop me a line at tris.clark@blancandotus.com.

SXSW by the Photos: B&O’s Austin Adventure

Also by Suzi Owens 

Just this past weekend, we had the amazing opportunity to travel to SXSW. Instead of telling you in words what we were up to, we thought it would be best to show you…

SXSW1

Making our way to Austin… Suzi came prepared with the proper local footwear.

SXSW2

We knew we were in the right place once we saw this sign.

SXSW3

Forget Lyft and Uber – local transportation was best riding on the back of one of these bad boys. However, there was a bit of pedicab traffic…

SXSW4

The biggest thing to come out of SXSW this year? Definitely Meerkat. Here is Mashable’s very own CEO Pete Cashmore meerkatting… We even heard his marketing team say they received 1,000 viewers watching live. Crazy!

SXSW5

#SXSWPuppyParty, courtesy of Whistle, DogVacay and iFetch. Took every ounce of willpower not to sneak that little guy home in our carry-ons.

SXSW6

The busiest location at SXSW had to be the MashableHouse. With Katy Perry’s Super Bowl lion (see above and below) and some other amazing things, it was the most popular house on the block. Even Hulk Hogan stopped by.

SXSW7

We couldn’t let Pete have all the fun obviously.

SXSW8

The best ride of the event though, was courtesy of the HootBike. A way to travel, network and had enjoy some fresh air with Owly.

SXSW9

Psycho fans were in luck as A&E recreated the Bates Motel. A great portrayal of Norman Bates’ thriller series.

SXSW10

Trying our luck with the Pepsi fortune teller. Hey, at least we got a free Pepsi out of it!

SXSW11

Also, ever wondered what happened to the pink moustache of Lyft? Guess it needed to evolve, according to CEO Logan Green, who explained the brand shake-up in his keynote with The Wall Street Journal’s Doug Macmillan. Pictured here courtesy of @dmac1 who tweeted, “I ordered Lyft & @logangreen showed up in a Bentley.”

All in all, while we didn’t get any Bentley rides, we had an amazing trip. Spent time with great people and even had a little bit of fun…as you can see.

Highlights from Mobile World Congress 2015

Ikea furniture with wireless charging
Ikea furniture with wireless charging

The first few months of the year are always abuzz with tech news coming out of CES and Mobile World Congress, and 2015 has been the year of the connected everything. If you didn’t have the pleasure of traveling to Barcelona last week, we have you covered. Here is our take on the most interesting news that came out of MWC.

Ikea is making wireless charging furniture and Samsung is getting in on it

I know, more connected things. I was skeptical at first too. But then I realized this means I could ditch that extension cord that runs from the opposite side of my bedroom, under my bed, up my nightstand and under my pillow to get a charge. The idea is that you could place your smartphone on a piece of furniture embedded with the charging technology and it would then power up wirelessly. The new furniture will be compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge and covers will be available for incompatible iPhone and Samsung models. So it’s not perfect yet but a cool concept and something I may be first in line for.

The FCC defends its Net Neutrality policy

Quick catch up: Last week the FCC announced it would regulate broadband Internet as a public utility. The new net neutrality policy is meant to ensure that broadband providers / Internet and media companies / the ones with all the money are not making all the rules for wee consumers. That means, no content can be blocked based on what we pay for Internet service and we can continue to watch cute cat videos all day long.

Naturally, the powers that be are none too pleased about the FCC getting involved. So at a conference that’s historically attended by the carriers, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wasn’t making too many friends. The net-net of his talk? Wheeler says broadband providers will be unaffected by the policy and that the new regulations “will not dictate carriers’ rates, impose tariffs or meddle with their business.” That’s democracy in action, people.

5G is the future

We’re adding more and more things to the Internet everyday – from cars to liquor bottles – so we’re going to need a faster, stronger infrastructure that offers more mobile data volume to support more connected devices. Much of the 5G conversation right now is about establishing a common set of standards including figuring out a way to efficiently power the network, which doesn’t exist yet.

Facebook is taking over the world

Zuck shared an update on Facebook’s Internet.org project, which aims to bring Internet access to “over 90% of the global offline population who live in developing countries.” Facebook has been working with mobile operators to get the job done and so far the success rate is pretty impressive – more than 500 million people in six countries can now access the Internet through the Internet.org app.

Clearly the major theme out of Mobile World Congress this year is building a connected world, with discussion focused on how exactly we will achieve it. Over the next year, businesses and media will continue to zero in on this broader trend – making it a top priority for PR and influencer programs looking to provide relevant content and expert POVs.

We’re excited to see how these conversations unfold and which companies emerge as the major players. Until next year, Barcelona.

Analyst Relations: How to Get the Most Out of Gartner Symposium

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Every year Gartner runs its Symposium event in Orlando. Symposium is the key event in the Analyst Relations calendar, due to the sheer number of analysts, vendors and high-level speakers attending. It’s also a great chance to hear Gartner brief the AR community on its latest research methodologies, changes and AR best practices. If you are new to the Symposium experience, here are some topline recommendations on how to get the most out of your time there:

  • Maximize the value of 1:1s – Ensure any 1:1 meetings with analysts are a genuinely good fit with your area of focus or the problem you are looking to solve. There’s nothing worse for either party than a discussion that is light on relevance. Be sure to give them opening context on what you’re hoping to get out of the conversation, especially if they’re not familiar with you, or your challenges. Often analysts are meeting attendees for the first time, so context is king.
  • Plan sessions carefully – As the venue is large and spread across multiple campuses, travel time can be a factor in attending sessions. Be sure to plan enough time between sessions for travel (especially if you’re new to the Symposium experience).  Gartner’s handy agenda builder will help you plan ahead.
  • Talk with CIOs for their reaction to analyst and vendor presentations  It’s one thing to hear what analysts and competitors have to say about tech trends. It’s quite another to observe how CIOs are reacting to those messages. When are they most engaged? When are they rolling their eyes in disbelief? This event provides a rare opportunity for message testing and trying out new angles. It also gives you a glimpse into where Gartner is – and isn’t – hitting its mark with the tech-buying crowd. Take advantage of it!
  • Seek out the unusual – Gartner Symposium sessions cover a wide range of topics. Often there will be novel presentations that look at the tech industry through a fresh lens – Gartner’s Maverick research notes are a great example of out of the box thinking. Gartner is particularly good at approaching topics from a high level, especially when it touches on the intersection of technology and decision maker politics and behaviors.

One great example from last year’s event was Tina Nunno’s session on CIO’s finding their inner Wolf (by learning the lessons of Machiavelli) in order to succeed politically in an organization. It was an excellent example of the political and emotional context of technology decision making. As well as being insightful, it was also very funny, and clearly resonated with the CIOs in attendance.

This year, Gartner’s introducing ‘Espresso’ sessions – quick fire presentations that are deliberately designed to be edgy and provocative. Examples of topics include: ‘Digital Ethics, or How Not to Mess Up With Technology’ and ‘The Next Digital Disruption Will Be the Human Brain: Is Your Organization Ready for Neurobusiness?’ I’m sure they will spur on a good deal of debate among attendees.

  • Intelligent networking – No, I’m not referencing some kind of new IT network delivery system, but Symposium is a great place to network with lots of smart AR folks. The Gartner Analyst Relations Forum is always well worth attending and is a must for anyone who has AR as part of their responsibilities. It provides a great macro update of Gartner’s latest plans, with many AR pros swapping anecdotes and comparing notes over drinks afterwards.

If you have any questions on getting the most out of Symposium, or how to best approach analyst events in general, please do get in touch with me at tclark@blancandotus.com.

LinkedIn TechConnect 14 and the Power of Authentic Connection

Tech ConnectLast week, I had the pleasure of presenting to a crowd of tech marketers and entrepreneurs at LinkedIn’s TechConnect 2014 conference. For those of you who missed it, video of the presentation is available, as are the slides from the presentations themselves.

The event opened with an inspiring presentation from Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, who among other things spoke to the importance of having a clear mission. In the case of Khan Academy, that mission is all about giving a world-class education to anybody, anywhere, for free, and that anybody can—and should be given the opportunity to—learn anything. It was a powerful example of the impact communication can have when it’s authentically rooted in a strong belief in something that matters.

I had the opportunity to speak to ways that tech marketing often gets in its own way when it strays from this principle of authenticity, something I wrote about in my last blog post. There’s just no substitute for being in service of something bigger than yourself. And when that belief shines through with authentic storytelling, it’s more compelling. It attracts customers, talent, partners, valuation and public support.

Of course, there are so many traps we can fall into that pull us off our authentic centers. There’s the temptation to overhype leadership, be it market leadership, technology leadership, thought leadership or team leadership. There’s the temptation to put your own agenda ahead of your audience’s agenda and make your story all about you instead of them. There’s the temptation to dictate the story, rather than co-create it with your audience. All these pitfalls are such a natural part of the tech marketing landscape, they’re sometimes hard to see. In my presentation, I explored some practical tips for spotting these traps and ways to inject authenticity and meaning back into our communications.

But looking again at the example of the Khan Academy, Sal himself is a wonderful model for what happens when you’re serving a genuine purpose. He doesn’t worry about claiming market leadership—he simply talks about how many people his organization has educated and how many educational videos are available. He doesn’t brag about his great technology, he simply demonstrates how easy and intuitive the learning experience is and what problems are solved. He doesn’t fall back on buzzwords in an attempt at thought leadership, he simply provides compelling example after compelling example of how he and his organization have had a real human impact. And as a team leader, he demonstrates overwhelming humility in the light of his accomplishments and instead focuses the spotlight on his team and their shared vision.

So I’d like to conclude this week’s XTC post with a simple thank-you to Sal Khan, not only for his inspiring work with Khan Academy—a resource my own children use daily—but also for how brilliantly he models what is authentic and impactful about leadership.

XTC (Examining the Change) is a weekly column in which B&O CEO Josh Reynolds examines the intersection of technology, disruption and storytelling. 

The Golden Ticket: How to Land a Speaker Slot at Mobile World Congress 2015

Credit: Joseph Francis
Credit: Joseph Francis

Mobile World Congress: It’s the world’s largest exhibition for the mobile industry, which we all know now covers everything from wearable technologies to cars and the future of computing. In fact, the event draws more than 85,000 visitors from 201 countries to Barcelona for four days of flashy product launches, executive presentations and networking after parties. Or put another way, it’s up there with CES as the kind of event that almost every technology company in the world wants to present at.

To help you land a much coveted speaking role at Mobile World Congress 2015 (March 2-5, 2015), we wanted to share the really helpful guidance that the content team at GSMA (the group that puts on MWC) has put together:

1.    Think Bigger than a Speaker Abstract

What: The MWC team doesn’t just rely on speaker abstracts and instead is hosting a series of Research Open DaysThis allows the content team to meet one-on-one with industry executives to get a sense of what is happening, changing, exciting, or scary in the market that will drive the mobile industry over the next year.

Why: If your company has never participated at MWC, this is your chance to get on the content team’s radar and get feedback on your MWC speaking submission (call for papers is June 26 – September 12). They will also gauge what the executive would be like on stage, so consider this a rehearsal for American Idol and you are going in the right direction.

How: They schedule a total of 60 briefings on Tuesdays and Thursdays in July and August, with three slots per day – 10:00 – 11:00, 2:00 – 3:00 & 4:00 – 5:00 [London time]. Register your interest here and you’ll be notified between May 22 and June 5 if you’re selected for a Research Open Day.

2.    Take 360 Degree Approach

What: A regional conference series that takes place in six countries between September and December. It’s highly focused on thought leadership and networking and does not include exhibitions like MWC. The North American event will take place September 22-23 in Atlanta and will focus on connected living and mobile commerce.

Why: Participate in this event to improve your chances of being selected for MWC 2015 and to give the content team a sneak peek at what your exec is like on stage.

How: Submit an idea during call for papers, June 9 – July 25.

3.    Think Beyond the Smartphone

What: There have been two major audience shifts at Mobile World Congress:

  1. As “digital” seeps well beyond telecom into industries like media, advertising, automotive and many others, thought leaders from these industries are increasingly attending MWC.
  2. The conference is attracting a more senior audience (50% C-level) who already know how mobile technology works, but want to know how to integrate it with their business.

Why: To cater for this expanding audience, GSMA is now including more cross-ecosystem participants in the speaking circuit.

How: There’s no one way to skin a cat here and instead, the key thing is to think creatively about how you can tell the most compelling story:

–       Offer a fresh format. One year someone brought robotic dancing bears – they want more of this. Suggest an on stage interview, fireside chat, panel discussion or demonstration.

–       Include an operator as co-speaker if your client is a software, hardware or IT company. This helps the content team better fit you in the program.

–       Focus on answering questions like:

  • How do you build X into financing?
  • How do you integrate X with legacy?
  • What are product strategies going forward for big vendors?

–      Submit multiple executives and multiple ideas. This is encouraged. But cap it at 3.

Want help building your story or securing coveted speaker slots at events like Mobile World Congress? Let us know and we’d be happy to discuss how we can help.

Stars of Silicon Valley Shine at B&O’s Fireside Chat

Let me start by simply saying this…our event last week was not your average, boring tech industry get together. In fact, there was nothing average about it.

Headlined by luminaries Charlene Li of Altimeter Group and Mike Weir of LinkedIn, and bringing together the hottest Silicon Valley companies and influencers including OracleTeradiciVentyxLyrisNarusBitcasaCheck PointNexGateSkype and YouEye, B&O’s inaugural Tech Marketing Playbook Fireside Chat was a great event filled with cool people and awesome content.

Discussion outlined marketplace shifts that impact how technology companies go-to-market and sustain their position, and offered sage advice on strategies and tactics that every tech marketing and communications professional should have in their playbook.

We will be continuing the discussion on this blog over the coming weeks/months and look forward to working with you all to build out the #PRPlaybook. You can also stay tuned into what’s happening in our world by following us on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

In the meantime, here are 10 reasons why Blanc & Otus is the hottest ticket in town:

1.  Hardworking, smart and fun – B&O has the best team ever.

B&O Staff

 

2.  We know how to fill a room.

Tech Marketing Playbook Fireside Chat

 

3. Who says tech PR trends have to be dull?

Josh Reynolds, Charlene Li, David Meizlik, Lori Shephard
L-R: Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Josh Reynolds, B&O; David Meizlik, NexGate; and Lori Bush Shephard, Clarizen

 

4. Our gents know all about creativity, authenticity and fun – just what every successful social media program needs.

B&O staff
L-R: Neil Torres, Bill Rundle, Neil Desai, Simon Jones, Charlie Passero, Andrew Padgett, Drew Smith, all of B&O

 

5. We delight our guests with 5-Star Service AND the best Chardonnay.

L-R Karen Hartquist, Candice van der Laan, Deborah Hellinger, all of Oracle
L-R Karen Hartquist, Candice van der Laan, Deborah Hellinger, all of Oracle

 

6. We know who matters and have exceptional list management skills.

Event name tags

 

7. The ladies of B&O know how to work it – whether it’s PR magic or a little black dress.

L-R: Stephanie Kaye, Natalie Pridham, Ivy Chen, Joan Touchstone, Christine Pai, Danielle Tarp, Kristin Reeves, all of B&O
L-R: Stephanie Kaye, Natalie Pridham, Ivy Chen, Joan Touchstone, Christine Pai, Danielle Tarp, Kristin Reeves, all of B&O

 

8.  Two words: client lovefest.

John Philpin, Lyris and Danielle Tarp, B&O
John Philpin, Lyris and Danielle Tarp, B&O

 

9.  Our messaging skills are strong enough to stand on their own.

B&O banners

 

10. Making Josh look smaller than Charlene Li takes talent, but we know how to play with perspectives.

L-R: Josh Reynolds, B&O; Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Mike Weir, LinkedIn
L-R: Josh Reynolds, B&O; Charlene Li, Altimeter Group; Mike Weir, LinkedIn

Wendy Allen