Black Hat in August calls for Creative Thinking Cap in July

Tiffany Darmetko


Image by Tim Shields under C license.

If you’re an IT security executive or IT security PR pro, your company may or may not be planning to have a presence at Black Hat 2015 next week. Perhaps one of your researchers has been invited to speak there. As is the case each year, we can anticipate news of hacking demonstrations coming out of the conference sessions that will make us say “Yikes!”

Already, we’re seeing 2015 Black Hat presentation previews that impress and intimidate. Here, the Wall Street Journal’s Danny Yadron talks about hackers hijacking a Jeep from a remote laptop in a preview to a planned Black Hat demonstration. If you’re thinking about making an announcement at (or around) the event, it’s important to note that this is the type and caliber of news you’re up against for reporters’ attention.

By now, you’ve made an informed decision about whether or not a Black Hat investment of any kind is worth it for your organization, especially if you’ve had to make long-lead arrangements like submitting a speaking proposal or spending marketing dollars to reserve exhibitor space.

For this post, let’s approach the conference purely from a media relations standpoint. You still have enough of a runway now to work on collecting the assets necessary to capitalize on Black Hat for company visibility purposes. I’ll share Five W’s of Black Hat PR. You grab your creative thinking cap.

1. Who: Your target media. They’ll be there.

  • Black Hat has a strong media presence. This is the second year the conference has published a formal list of media registrants, and you can bank on the fact that a good number of important influencers will show up to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
  • BlackHat is a UBM Tech sponsored event, so editorial folks will attend from UBM-owned publications like Dark Reading and InformationWeek.
  • As for reporters and bloggers who don’t make the trip to Vegas, they’ll still keep an eye on Black Hat-related news. From a quick phone interview, they can get the facts and churn out their coverage without needing to be in physical attendance.

2. What: Interesting research. The media wants it.

  • Reporters are fans of research and statistics. Black Hat news coverage centers on threat research findings.
  • Determine what, if any, research is currently being done in-house at your company, is planned for the near future, or could possibly be started in time to announce the findings at the event.
  • Caution: Black Hat is not typically a forum for issuing product news or announcing company activity outside the realm of research. As far as reporters are concerned, things like product upgrades will fall on deaf ears at this event. If your primary goal is to attract media attention (and ultimately coverage) for a particular non-research related news announcement, save it for another time. 

3. Where: Meeting spots are scattered around the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. You don’t need an exhibitor booth.

  • In-person meetings for security vendors with the media occur in lower volume at Black Hat than at RSA Conference, but they do happen. You don’t need to have a booth as a pre-requisite for reporters to meet with you, especially if you can produce the research goods.
  • For speakers: Reporters will scan the conference agenda and choose sessions that interest them, but it doesn’t hurt to personally invite them to tune in to your company’s talk if their schedule permits. Mingling before and after the session gives you convenient face time with media.
  • In the absence of news, summon your top researcher or technical executive, put a hold on their calendar for the conference days, come up with a short list of compelling industry insights that could make for a worthwhile meet and greet, and offer reporters the chance to pick their brain at the show. They might take you up on the offer, at which point, you can ask your researcher/exec to book their travel (that is if they weren’t already planning on going). 

4. When: Time is of the essence. Sit down with your research team today.

  • Find out what your most interesting announcement options are for Black Hat. Chances are there is research that someone’s cooking up at your company, which could be extracted, analyzed and communicated with media in a compelling way. We know it’s a balancing act to satisfy press interests and business priorities, so the more time you have to figure it out, the better.
  • Map out your plan for when, where and how to effectively communicate your Black Hat-appropriate news.
  • Some reporters start early adding vendor meetings to their calendars and others want to talk by phone before boarding their plane to the event. Still others populate their Black Hat schedule closer to the start date or prefer to connect on-the-fly once they’re on site.

5. Why: Vegas in August is the place to be. It’s a dry heat.

  • Black Hat is fast approaching, so why not use it to your advantage if you can, in order to be associated with this high profile event as a quoted expert or at least to use it as a media bonding exercise.
  • Influential media, analysts and influencers that matter to your business will be conveniently gathered under one roof – and – engaging via social channels. Delivering them what they want, when and how they want it will help you build a rapport and increase the chances they’ll turn to you for insights in the future.
  • If you don’t grab the mindshare, you can be sure someone else will. Plan smart for Black Hat and show off your security research chops.

Good luck and drop us a line if you’d like some assistance.


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