High-Lights: Our Tech PR POV

Behind the Scenes with Black Hat Comms Lead

Logo of the Black Hat conference

It’s nearly time for Black Hat USA and given RSA was so late in the year, it seems to have snuck up on everyone quicker than ever.

But no fear, Highwire’s Cyber Squad is on top of it—this year, we interviewed Kimberly Samra, PR Manager for Black Hat and lead for UBM’s technology portfolio, to get a pulse on what the hottest trends at the show will be and how attendees and PR practitioners alike can make the most of their time at the conference this year.

See below for information ranging from themes that will attract a lot of attention at the show—including election security, critical infrastructure and privacy—and tips for how to break through to reporters and tell your story. We hope this information helps you make the most of your time at Black Hat. If you’re heading down and want to meet up with the Highwire Cyber Squad, please email us at secleads@highwirepr.com.

Now, back to our scheduled programming to get the inside scoop from Kimberly Samra, PR manager for Black Hat:

Q) How has PR at Black Hat changed?

The PR landscape has certainly expanded with the growth of the security industry. While we still see the usual big-time security reporters covering the event, coverage is shifting across multiple verticals as the industry transitions and becomes such an essential part of our everyday lives. As discussed in Black Hat’s new research report, “Where Cybersecurity Stands” security has quickly become mainstream, touching everything from politics to international relations, commerce, money and human relations—it really has a hand in everything these days.

So as PR folks ramp up for the event, they should tailor their outreach strategies thinking beyond items specific to security and ensure their pitches demonstrate how people and consumers are affected on a grander scale.

Q) Have you seen a shift in Black Hat audience? More CIOs and technology buyers?

As the event grows we definitely see a wider range of professionals attending. While the Briefings program is at the core of what we offer to our audience, we’ve seen our Business Hall expand to welcome top vendors in the industry interested in sharing their latest and greatest tools and how they’re pushing security innovation forward through advanced research. Our Black Hat CISO Summit has also grown as more executives are making security a top priority.

Black Hat as a whole really brings together every aspect of the industry and is a hub for all things security. It’s the must-attend security event of the year and we’re happy to continue adding to our offerings and the content media is exposed to so they can report critical insights to the public.

Q) What are the top trends you expect to see at the show this year?

Of course we always see a lot of attention around big-name vendors, mobile, IoT, payment systems, critical infrastructure, etc. However, not surprisingly, we’ve seen a lot of buzz around voting technology and privacy. As folks look toward the upcoming elections and draw from all the controversy around the 2016 U.S. presidential race, they’re looking to security experts to answer questions about how vulnerabilities found in voting technology could affect outcomes and any other potential issues that could unknowingly change the course of political history.  

Privacy on the other hand is a vast issue that remains top of mind for people on many levels—from those working in government, the enterprise level and everyday citizens. We’ve all seen headlines pertaining to the Facebook investigation, the global effects of GDPR, and continued reports of security breaches. It’s no secret that people are questioning their privacy and how their data is being used. It’s a widespread topic and the research being done within the security industry is pertinent to learning more and making moves toward protection.

Q) Is there anything new happening at the show?

Yes! We’re really excited about a number of new offerings this year, specifically the expansion of our community programs. Black Hat has taken strategic steps over the years to ensure our program expands and continues to welcome and serve a wider audience. A few years back we began work around inclusivity through dedicated diversity programs. We’re proud that these programs have continued to grow and that we’re now able tap into programming specific to the needs of the community on a much larger scale.

On the Briefings side, we’ll see content coming from the new Community Track, which was developed to provide a forum for discussion on relevant issues currently impacting the InfoSec community. These talks will dive into important topics including careers, legal issues, inclusion, diversity, attribution, substance abuse, mental health, burnout, security awareness, work-life balance and more. We’ll also be holding Community Workshops which have been made to encourage collaboration among the Black Hat community; attendees will be exposed to everything from personal digital resilience to mentorship and career-building strategies.

And of course, we’ll see the return of our scholarship program and our work with non-profit partners, two items we’re really passionate about as we engage with and encourage the next generation of security professionals and give back to the community we service.

Q) What advice can you offer for companies looking to prepare to pitch reporters at Black Hat?

Companies should keep in mind the scale of Black Hat as well as the happenings throughout the week—remember, it’s called “Hacker Summer Camp” for a reason. Do your homework and tailor what you’re trying to pitch specifically to the reporter you’re reaching out to—a pitch that’s only specific to a security product announcement won’t always do the trick.

Questions you should ask yourself: Are you familiar with the headlines out there right now? Does your content pertain to big topics like privacy, critical infrastructure or maybe companies a certain journalist regularly writes about? Think of yourself as a valuable source rather than someone trying to simply sell a reporter on a story.

Also, make it easy on them! There is so much going on leading up to the event and especially onsite, you don’t want your news to get swept up in the hustle bustle especially if press have to decipher your message and how it applies to a potential big story. Take a step back, focus on what the big takeaway is, and figure out the headline—if you were a reporter, how would you envision the story? It’s like delivering a ready-made gift.

And start now! Don’t wait to get your news out to registered media. Remember, their schedules are packed onsite so you need to get on their radars now so they can make time for you.

See here for an interview with Black Hat communications director from 2016 for a look back at trends over the years.

Learn more about Highwire’s security practice here or reach out to us at secleads@highwirepr.com to continue the conversation. We’ll be at the conference, so we’re looking forward to meeting you on the show floor to hear your story!