Virtual CES and Pepcom 2021: Takeaways for Future Shows

Image Credit: GeekWire


As has become the 2021 norm, both Pepcom and CES were entirely different conferences year. Flashy booths and media stop-bys became virtual waiting rooms and video demos. Although the events were virtual, they were still a chance for companies to build relationships with media and showcase their consumer appeal.

Fittingly, Pepcom and CES used the very thing they celebrate — technology — to connect exhibitors with media. Booths appeared as boxes with company logos on a landing page, and brief descriptions of each exhibitor — along with a video link — helped attendees decide if they wanted to “stop by” and talk with someone from the company. Despite the updated experience, reporters, editors, producers, and hosts still flocked to the event. 

Some Highwire clients chose not to have a large presence at the shows, though the week did — somewhat unexpectedly — still prove to be a priority for media targets looking for news. Below are a few of Highwire’s standout campaigns:

Bespoken Spirits

While the company didn’t exhibit at CES, the team took a unique approach to connect with media attendees. The team highlighted Bespoken Spirits’ ability to tailor spirits in a matter of days vs. decades by leaning into the de-stressing effects of a good cocktail. Consumer and lifestyle reporters received a designed recipe card for a CES-themed cocktail and an offer to sample Bespoken whiskey. By including ingredients that most media already have at home (such as honey and syrup), the team also helped emphasize the company’s focus on sustainability.


This smart home company previewed a new matte black finish for its most recent smart lock, Level Touch, at Pepcom. The new finish, which turned several heads at the show, adds to momentum Level has seen in the past year driven by two product launches — Level Bolt and Level Touch. The team offered a firsthand look at the lock’s new finish through a video demo with the company to event attendees, which encouraged conversations with people the company had existing relationships with and expanded visibility with new faces.

Level’s 2021 Pepcom booth preview

Despite the virtual experience, these events were still a great opportunity for PR teams to build relationships with key media attendees and drive awareness for their clients. 

Based on the media feedback teams received, here are a few tips on how to best engage with attendees at future virtual events:

  1. Familiarity is everything: Strengthen pre-existing relationships by positioning the stop-bys as an informal chance to get the latest on the company. Be sure to reference the last conversation to jog the reporter’s memory.
  2. Give a reason to engage with the product: Get creative! Don’t simply offer a sample or review unit from your client, but give them a way to actively experience it (like we saw with Bespoken’s cocktail recipe).
  3. No news? No problem: If you don’t have news to announce, focus on introductions between relevant targets and your client by leaning into their beat. Check out their Muck Rack and Twitter pages, as well as recent coverage, to get a sense of what they’re covering. If they like what your client is showcasing, they still might include it in a Pepcom/CES roundup.

The Future of Work: The Biggest Threats to a New 21st Century Work Life

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a number of disruptions in the world of tech industry events – and next week’s now virtual Black Hat is no exception. In response, businesses are getting creative and rethinking their approaches to the usual networking, presentations and panels we see at in-person conferences. This week, Highwire’s Security Practice is hosting a series of virtual panels titled “On The Record: Cyber Edition” featuring a lineup of executives from top clients to highlight some of the key topics we’ll see at this year’s virtual Black Hat.

Wednesday’s panel, “The Future of Work: The Biggest Threats to a New 21st Century Work Life,” was moderated by Sam Whitmore, founder of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey, and featured expert panelists from Cybereason, Code42, One Identity, and Akamai.  

In attendance were Samantha Schwartz (@SamanthaSchann) from CIO Dive, Jennifer Schlesinger (@jennyanne211) from CNBC, Tony Bradley (@RealTonyBradley) from Forbes/TechSpective, Arielle Waldman (@ariellewaldman) from TechTarget, Alyssa Newcomb (@AlyssaNewcomb) from NBC/Today Show, Shaun Nichols (@shaundnichols) from The Register, Teri Robinson (@TeriRnNY) from SC Magazine, Sue Poremba (@sueporemba) from Security Boulevard, and Mark Cox (@Mark_ChannelGuy) from ChannelBuzz. 

Whitmore kicked off the panel with a discussion around how COVID-19 has changed the panelists’ view on the future of work. There was a shared sentiment around how their companies acted swiftly to get employees working from home, and there was complete unanimity that a hybrid workforce is “the new normal.” 

Although digital transformation was already well on its way to changing the way we work, panelists agreed that COVID-19 really accelerated the timeline. 

“Y2K was supposed to be the year everything changed, but it seems like the change happened 20 years later,” said Maha Pula, VP of Solutions Engineering at Akamai. “We were just redesigning workspaces to be more open and shared, and then COVID-19 came and changed the paradigm.”

Not only has our work environment changed, but the attack surface as well. The way Mor Levi, VP of Global Security Services at Cybereason puts it, there are many threats and risks for the privacy of employees – everything from conference calls to speakers and webcams. Without the benefits of a secure office infrastructure, employees open themselves up to a whole new host of privacy and security risks. 

“What worked for companies [before] are no longer relevant,” said Levi. “VPN and all those things must shift to zero trust, SaaS and cloud — all those areas that are more secure, robust and available.”

Jadee Hanson, CISO and CIO at Code42, went on to add that there are other security challenges in the current landscape, such as not having an office network, which means companies need to shift their strategy to focus more on the endpoint. She stressed the need for CISOs to weigh that cost and that they need adequate funding to be able to protect the company. 

In addition to network security, another large threat to the quickly changing workforce is overall security awareness, according to Dan Conrad, field strategist at One Identity. More people working from home means employees are using devices that may have access to the corporate network, and activities like streaming videos and accessing potentially malicious sites (or worse — downloading malware) puts them at serious risk. A point remains — employees don’t know what they don’t know. 

“We can’t expect users to understand [security] training unless they understand the dangers of working from home,” said Conrad. “Realizing when you authenticate a VPN you have extended the company network to your home that may be riddled with viruses — if [they] are not aware, you can’t expect a lot out of them.”

Hanson agreed, adding that compliance is not a checked box, it’s a cultural shift. 

“[With COVID-19], we have focused a bit more on those guiding principles — what to do when you’re home, how to set up your home router or network,” said Hanson. “I think of security awareness as the daily corrections that happen throughout the day.” 

While there’s no denying that the world is moving beyond the idea of a “new normal” and well into a forever-changed future of work, there is a silver lining. Some of our experts noted that as a result of the pandemic, security roadmaps have been accelerated and this is good news for CISOs and CIOs who now have a front row seat at the table to innovate around tools, smart processes, and models like zero trust. 

Overall, the panelists provided thoughtful insights into the threat landscape and the opportunities the new future of work presents for security teams. You can watch the full panel here and above. 

Must-Attend Events for Communications Professionals at RSA 2020

Photo by Shahadat Rahman on Unsplash

The upcoming RSA Conference is one of the most popular security conferences that brings together the best and brightest in cybersecurity. While this annual event provides technical security experts with the opportunity to talk about latest industry trends, it is also a great opportunity for communication professionals to come together to network, brainstorm and share stories from the trenches. 

This year Highwire is excited to be sponsoring two events: The Security Comms Happy Hour and Securiosis Disaster Recovery Breakfast, both of which bring together the cybersecurity community for good conversation and good times. Hope to see you there!

Event Details:

Security Comms Happy Hour,

  • When: Monday, February 24 from 6-7p.m PST
  • Where: Tres Restaurant (130 Townsend St. San Francisco, CA)
  • What: This is a great way to network with cybersecurity comms professionals, share stories and talk about best practices in this dynamic industry. Register via Eventbrite

Disaster Recovery Breakfast  

  • When: Thursday, February 27 from 8-11a.m. PST 
  • Where: The Metron TableTop Tap House (175 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103)
  • What: Network, eat, and most importantly relax. Attendance is free, so register at and see this blog post for additional details.


If you can’t make either event and are interested in chatting with Highwire, please reach out to

What’s Holding The Mass Tech Economy Back?

The Massachusetts tech industry typically does not bother itself too much with discussions about policy. The one exception came in 2013 when technology leaders rallied for a revision of a new tax policy that would impact cloud services companies. The groundswell led to the rapid removal of the “tech tax,” as it was called. Many policy wonks and elected officials were surprised by the response, and implored the tech industry to speak up on policy more often.

A new report from the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MTLC) released last week provides a blueprint of policies that need urgent attention from the tech industry to help to continue its growth in the state. For tech companies, their leaders, marketers and PR pros, the message is simple: Your insight into these policies will inform the discussion and establish thought leadership that would benefit the entire industry.

Considered together, the reports, “State of the Tech Economy” and “Tech Pulse Business Confidence,” paint a vibrant picture for the current technology industry in Massachusetts, but they point to challenges that need to be addressed to enable continued tech industry growth.

According to the reports, the tech industry underpins roughly a third of all jobs in the state, when one considers not only those employed by tech firms but the organizations that support those firms. Seventy-two percent of tech companies surveyed plan to expand in Massachusetts in 2020. 

In its short time in Boston, Highwire PR has supported this growth while benefiting from it. Our Back Bay, Boston office represents innovative companies across cybersecurity, digital health and internet infrastructure. We offer them a unique approach to high-tech PR that leverages our deep relationships with influencers, our understanding of our clients’ markets, and our creativity. 

Here’s the problem for Highwire and the rest of the tech industry in the Boston area. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts is 2.84%, which means it’s hard to find talent. And while the state is blessed with numerous, world-renowned universities and colleges, many graduates are weighing the state’s high cost of housing and transportation issues when making career decisions. 

On the positive side, the transportation challenges the state faces are evidence that people want to live, work and play here.

“Detroit doesn’t have traffic jams,” summarized Mark Melnik, director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the UMASS Donahue Institute, which partnered with MTLC on one of the reports, during a presentation at the report release event. 

Transportation problems also mean employees can’t get to work. And those frustrations have led to conversations among Massachusetts policy makers and elected officials to address the issue.

Housing costs are another policy challenge affecting tech industry growth. According to Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Mike Kennealy, who also presented at the report release event, Massachusetts boasts the highest rents in the country. 

“We like to be No. 1 in a lot of things, but we do not want to be No. 1 in rent,” Kennealy said. 

Melnik noted that it’s impossible for young talented professionals to save for a mortgage down payment when rents are so high. Kennealy explained that the problem is housing supply. Like transportation, this is an issue that is of high interest to elected officials and members of Governor Baker’s administration.

As was the case with the tech tax, policy makers want to hear from the private sector, and they would love to cooperate with business leaders to develop policies that will continue to support industry. 

From a PR perspective, there is enormous opportunity to speak to these key issues, and the impact they are having on growth. What are challenges tech employees are seeing, how are they addressing them day-to-day, and what would be most helpful to alleviate them? We ask these questions of our clients to develop storylines of interest to local media. We closely liaise with local influencer groups (such as MTLC) to earn opportunities for clients to speak about them.

While the tech industry in Massachusetts has historically been quiet on matters of policy, speaking up positions organizations as the true business drivers that they are, according to the MTLC report.

If you want to learn more about how Highwire is helping its clients lead strategic industry discussions, reach out to us:

RSAC 2020: Everything You Need To Know

RSA Conference is quickly approaching, and the #HWCyberSquad is getting its ducks in a row. For close to 30 years, the week-long conference has drawn the best and brightest in cybersecurity to discuss current trends and challenges impacting the space. 

This year, RSAC’s theme is The Human Element, which will explore how even though an automated future is inevitable, our most valuable weapon is and will always be ourselves. While artificial intelligence and machine learning are expected to fight against threats better than we ever could, humans will always be needed when it comes to making challenging ethical decisions. RSAC believes that “when we recognize that cybersecurity is, fundamentally, about people protecting people, the world becomes a better, more secure place.” 

The Human Element isn’t the only thing that will be talked about, though — topics like DevSecOps, AI and ML, and insider threats are set to take center stage alongside even more pressing conversations around election security, ransomware threats, 5G, and privacy. This year, we expect to hear compelling conversations about modern approaches to security as we enter into a new decade — how are we approaching security in new and different ways? 


Security Then and Now

As we head full force into 2020, a number of sessions will focus on how security strategies have changed and where they are going. Akamai’s talk on Security’s Grand Challenges, Then and Now will look at where we came from, and how our biggest challenges have shifted, and Forcepoint’s talk on Modern Strategies for Protecting Users and Data in a Borderless World will highlight why modern cybersecurity needs a mindset change. Splunk will be moderating a panel with experts from Intel and Starbucks on Modernizing the Security Operations Center, and Illumio will be highlighting why we need to approach the more powerful threats that we are seeing with a new approach — more powerful segmentation. Each of these sessions hits on a key theme that cybersecurity strategies are not what they used to be — and we need to take a new approach. 

As attackers become increasingly sophisticated, we’re also seeing researchers share in-depth insights into some of the most impactful attacks. In a session, SonicWall shares insights into a Two-Week Conversation with a Ransomware Cell which begins with the young leader of a Russian ransomware cell. Nicknamed “Twig,” SonicWall’s confidential contact unveils how alarmingly easy it is for their cell to find, target and attack modern networks.


The Era of DevSecOps

We are continuing to see the security and developer world overlap, as businesses look to shift left and make the transition from DevOps to DevSecOps. We’ll see a number of sessions providing businesses with best practices on bringing security into the development process, from GitLab’s talk on Best Practices for Adding Security to DevOps, to Veracode’s session on helping developers to understand security,  A Security Pro in Developer’s Clothing. From base-level “how to’s” to more technical instruction, the DevSecOps movement is here to stay, and security practitioners will be sharing their unique insights for businesses to be set up for success, including How to Harness Dev and Their Native Tools to Accelerate DevSecOps.


How Identity Impacts Security Strategies

Coinciding with RSAC’s human element theme, Code42 and One Identity will both host talks focused on how identity impacts the ways we approach cybersecurity. Insider threats aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and they’re continuing to impact businesses — Code42 and One Identity outline how practitioners can better secure their organizations by mitigating these risks. 


AI and Machine Learning

New technologies are continuing to impact the ways organizations stay secure — particularly machine learning. Intel will focus on how ML can help from two different angles: how we can use ML to protect privacy in a data-driven world and How HW Telemetry and ML Can Make Life Tough for Exploits. They’ll share the benefits of implementing ML technologies into security frameworks and how it can better protect businesses.  

The #HWCyberSquad will be at RSAC to learn from the experts, connect with reporters and industry influencers, and gain an even deeper understanding of the pressing issues facing businesses in 2020 and beyond. 

Want to catch up at the show? Email, and stay tuned for more RSA content as we get closer to the event.


Be sure to stop by the Expo Hall to learn more about each of our clients, listed below: 

Client Booth Locations

  • Akamai: Booth #6153, North Expo
  • BitSight: Booth #1167, South Expo
  • Code42: Booth #6079, North Expo
  • Forcepoint: Booth #5965, North Expo
  • GitLab: No booth but see above for details on speaking sessions
  • Illumio: Booth #5459, North Expo
  • Intel Security: No booth but see above for details on speaking sessions
  • Interos: No booth, but will be on the show floor
  • MobileIron: Booth #1727, South Expo
  • One Identity: Booth #6271, North Expo
  • Qualys: Hosting QSC 2020 at Four Seasons on 2/25
  • SonicWall: Booth #5559, North Expo
  • Splunk: Booth #5865, North Expo
  • Veracode: Booth #5553, North Expo
  • vArmour: No booth, but will be on the show floor

Additionally, check out all of our clients’ events, parties, and speaking sessions throughout the week, listed below:


  1. Forcepoint RSA Welcome Reception 
    • Location: The St. Regis San Francisco, 125 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94103, Yerba Buena Terrace, 4th Floor
    • Date: Monday, February 24
    • Time: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. PT
  2. vArmour Concert Party with Nothing But Thieves
    • Location: The Grand, 520 4th Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
    • Date: Monday, February 24
    • Time: 8:30 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. PT
  3. vArmour + Digital Shadows Security Leaders RSA Party
    • Location: City View at Metreon, 135 4th St #4000, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26
    • Time: 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. PT
  4. Qualys QSC Private Reception
    • Location: Veranda Ballroom on the 5th Floor, Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26
    • Time: 6:00 – 9:30 p.m. PT
  5. Securosis Disaster Recovery Breakfast
    • Location: Tabletop Tap House, 175 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
    • Date: Thursday, February 25
    • Time: 8:00 – 11:00 a.m. PT

Speaking Sessions

  1. Veracode’s Javier Perez Talk on “Time to Spell Out Open Source Software Security”
    • Location Moscone West, 3022
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. PT
  2. Qualys Security Conference 2020 San Francisco
    • Location: Veranda Ballroom on the 5th Floor, Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. PT
    • Register here
  3. Splunk’s Oliver Friedrichs, Jac Noel, and Lee Peterson Talk on “Modernizing the Security Operations Center: A Security Leader Panel:
    • Location: Moscone South
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 3:40 – 4:30 p.m. PT
  4. Code42’s Talk on “The Insider Threat: You’re Flying Blind”
    • Location: Moscone North Expo
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 4:20-4:50 p.m. PT
  5. One Identity’s Talk on “Security Starts Here…Identity”
    • Location: Moscone South
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 2:10 – 2:30 p.m. PT
  6. Intel’s Casimir Wierzynski Talk on “Protect Privacy in a Data-Driven World: Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning”
    • Location: Moscone West
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 1:00 – 1:50 p.m. PT
  7. Intel’s Rahuldeva Ghosh and Dr. Zheng Zhang Talk on “Nowhere to Hide: How HW Telemetry and ML Can Make Life Tough for Exploits”
    • Location: Moscone West
    • Date: Tuesday, February 25
    • Time: 3:40 – 4:30 p.m. PT
  8. Forcepoint’s Homayun Yaqub Talk on “Modern Strategies for Protecting Users and Data in a Borderless World”
    • Location: Moscone South, 207
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26 
    • Time: 2:50 – 3:40 p.m. PT
  9. Veracode’s Chris Wysopal and Jay Jacobs Talk on “8 Million Findings in 1 Year: Fresh Look at the State of Software”
    • Location: Moscone West, 3014
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26
    • Time: 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. PT
  10. SonicWall’s Brook Chelmo Talk on “Mindhunter: My Two-Week Conversation with a Ransomware Cell”
    • Location: Moscone North Expo
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26
    • Time: 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. PT
  11. GitLab’s Cindy Blake Talk on “Best Practices for Adding Security to DevOps”
    • Location: Moscone West
    • Date: Wednesday, February 26
    • Time: 9:20 – 10:10 a.m. PT
  12. GitLab’s Cindy Blake Talk on “How to Harness Dev and Their Native Tools to Accelerate DevSecOps”
    • Location: Moscone West
    • Date: Thursday, February 27
    • Time: 1:30 – 2:20 p.m. PT
  13. Akamai’s Andy Ellis Talk on “20 Years In: Security’s Grand Challenges, Then and Now”
    • Location: Moscone West Street Level
    • Date: Thursday, February 27
    • Time: 10:35 – 10:55 a.m. PT
  14. Illumio’s Talk on “More Powerful Segmentation for More Powerful Threats”
    • Location: Moscone North Expo
    • Date: Thursday, February 27
    • Time: 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. PT
  15. Veracode’s Ryan O’Boyle Talk on “A Security Pro in Developer’s Clothing”
    • Location: Moscone North Expo
    • Date: Thursday, February 27
    • Time: 12:40 – 1:10 p.m. PT
  16. BitSight’s Jake Olcott Talk on “Do Investors Care About Cyber Risk?”
    • Location: Moscone West
    • Date: Thursday, February 27
    • Time: 2:50 – 3:40 p.m. PT
  17. Veracode’s Chris Wysopal and Katie Moussouris Talk on “Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure – You’ve come a long way baby”
    • Location: Moscone South Esplanade
    • Date: Friday, February 28
    • Time: 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. PT

PRSA Silicon Valley: Media Predicts Tech Trends for 2020

Photo by CoWomen

Last month, a few folks from our San Francisco office joined the Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapter at their 13th Annual Media Predicts Gala and Awards Ceremony. Joined by a stellar panel made up of notable reporters, like Ina Fried of Axios, Laura Mandaro of Forbes, Mike Isaac of The New York Times, Ryan Mac of Buzzfeed and Jack Stewart of Marketplace–the team got to hear insights on what trends media are anticipating for 2020 from conversation about “Big Tech,” data privacy and more.

Ready with a delicious dinner paired with a nice glass of wine, Highwire–joined by some of our clients–jotted down some notes on key takeaways from the night for tech trends in 2020 and insight on pitching reporters at these top tier publications.

Panelists shared some noteworthy insight on what they anticipate for tech trends in 2020. Here are our top picks:

  • The road to regulation for Big Tech: Facebook has become the poster child for all the bad things happening in tech. They have no allies on any side of politics and have been losing trust from its users. Curious as to why we haven’t seen any regulation? To put it in plain words, it’s just not that easy. The two main areas the government can explore, however, are antitrust and privacy. While these areas are being regulated with regulations like GDPR in the EU, the panelists let us know we simply don’t have the same means in the US. With election season coming in 2020, we can expect to see the introduction of new laws to regulate “Big Tech.”
  • The effect of Big Tech for up-and-coming companies: We are seeing the same four or five tech companies control every part of how we live our lives. From smart devices, social media to ride-sharing apps, the lens of how the world operates is coming from just a handful of companies. Crazy, right? Panelists anticipate startups will continue to be acquired from influencing giants, making it tougher for us to know who the next company will be to join the elite as they’ll be more cautiously selected. 
  • An open conversation on why you should care about data privacy: When it comes to privacy, reporters warn that while everyone is “watching the front door,” the back door is what’s scary. Even with the knowledge of companies having access to our data, we haven’t seen public outcry. Reporters say this means the average person doesn’t have enough information to know if they should care about their data privacy. With new laws and regulations, 2020 could be the year of enlightenment for those still in the dark. The opportunity will heavily rely on the media to continue to provide the public with the necessary knowledge needed to dispell misinformation.

Beyond some insightful trends and predictions, the panel took part in a series of rapid-fire questions that shined a light on some of their personal preferences. If you’re thinking about pitching any of these lovely reporters, listen up!

  • On the record vs off the record conversations: Be careful what you say on and offline, you may see it in print. While reporters do honor “on the record” conversations, they let us know there needs to be an agreement. If there’s no two-way agreement, sorry bud, but panelists say your words are fair game *cough cough* Elon Musk.
  • Best time to pitch a reporter: Does the early bird get the worm? Ask early risers Mike Isaac and Laura Mandaro. Meanwhile, you’re more likely to catch Ryan Mac and Ina Fried with the sight of the moon as they both admit they’re night owls. Gotta get that newsletter out somehow, right, Ina?
  • Checklist before pitching a startup: If you’re pitching a startup, panelists shared a few items you need to check off your list before getting in their inbox. Does your startup have a good business model? What about real customers? Have you found the right reporter who’s passionate about your topic? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you’re ready to click send.

We’re excited to see how these media trends play out in 2020. With the introduction of new technology and regulations, anything is possible. Let us know what trends you anticipate for 2020. Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Facebook

Data, Data and More Data at Strata Data

Data is the lifeblood of an organization. Data is the new oil. Data should be treated as if it were water and not oil, in that it should be clean and accessible to everyone at a company. Regardless of what analogy you prefer to use, the simple truth of the matter is that data is a company’s most important and strategic asset.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

At Strata Data, dozens of vendors ranging from large publicly traded companies such as IBM and Cloudera to VC backed unicorns (Collibra) and new startups (Privacera) flocked to the Javits Center to showcase how they are enabling organizations to clean, organize, secure, govern, analyze and (insert every other action that I missed) data. While all of these vendors were busy trying to get the attention of the potential customers walking around the show floor, their respective communications teams had an equally challenging task of cutting through all of the noise generated at the show in order to breakthrough to relevant reporters. 

Some companies fared better than others – and I’d like to personally think that the clients Highwire had at the show did a great job – at securing meaningful interviews and coverage. But what does it take to achieve this outcome, especially at a show such as Strata Data which has such a narrow focus? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Relationships Matter: The first time a reporter or influencer hears about your company (unless your organization is coming out of stealth mode) should not be when you are trying to get them to meet at a crowded conference. Relationships are built over time. Make sure to invest time in getting to know the reporters who are relevant to your space and ensure they have a firm grasp of what your company does. This make take a few interactions, but the investment will be worth as a reporter is more likely – although not a guarantee – to be receptive to a pitch around a conference if he or she knows who the company is. 
  • Compelling Content is King: What truly stands out for reporters are unique angles and stories. How is a customer actually using a product to drive real world results? What is this new technology or feature doing to help customers solve critical pain points? These are the stories that reporters care about, not that version 5.7-2 has a new GUI.
  • Announce Your News Early: One of the easiest ways to get in front of the news generated at any conference is to simply announce your news a few days to a week prior to the start of the show. This helps increase brand awareness and generate buzz prior to the show, gives your sales team some timely and relevant content to share with prospects to drive them to your booth and reporters may be less busy in the week before the show than at a show where they are hustling from meeting to meeting.

While a few companies I met with on the show floor cited a decrease in overall attendance from years prior, the quality of attendees was better. Strata Data might not be the largest conference, but it certainly remains one of the top data shows of the year. Does your company have plans on attending Strata Data in San Jose in March? If so, what approaches do you have plans on taking at the show? Share your thoughts with me via Twitter @JFerrary.

Overheard at CES: A Blog of Historical Fiction

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, or CES as it’s widely known, draws in hundreds of thousands of attendees from all over the world to Las Vegas each January to check out the latest innovations from both leading and emerging brands in consumer technology.

I’ve personally attended with Highwire PR for the past two shows, and such a massive event seems to yield new observations year after year. Check out the below phrases I’ve overheard*, and keep them in mind for a smooth and successful show.

*could have easily overheard

“Zedd was amazing, but I shouldn’t have slept in.”

There are a handful of after-party options every night of CES (and in Vegas year-round in general), and it’s great to take advantage and have fun while you’re there. However, for press purposes, it’s best to arrive at the show every morning as soon as the doors open to vendors. Reporters and broadcast producers are easier to scope out and more likely to agree to meeting/interviewing a subject at this early point in the day.

Pro tip: Head to the broadcast booth in the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center (Tech East) each morning to see what segments you might be able to line up for later in the day.


“Did you hear what Amazon announced?”

… Everyone probably did. CES is chock full of major brands executing grandiose activations and announcing major news. While this adds to the excitement of the show, it also makes it quite difficult for non-household name brands to break through the noise.

Pro tip: If you have news to announce, be quite discerning when deciding if CES is the right place to do it. If you have flexibility, try bumping consumer product news up a couple months to increase the odds of holiday gift guide coverage and avoid the CES news cycle.


“These cab lines though!”

Yes, the cab lines (and airport lines, and coffee lines, and all the lines) across Vegas are horrid during CES. You can expect to spend at least 20-30 minutes standing in a cab stand to get from Point A to Point B during the show, and even more time during peak hours (when the shows are closing for the day). The issue doesn’t end there; once en route, traffic congestion is extreme on these days, so what may regularly be only a 5-minute drive turns into a 15-minute one. 

Pro tip: Build an egregious amount of buffer time into your commutes to ensure punctuality.


“I’m lost.”

CES spans nearly 3 million square feet of exhibit space and is spread out across multiple convention centers and hotels in the city. The show venues are grouped into three main areas: Tech East, Tech West and Tech South. 

Pro tip: Study the maps ahead of time to help you get your bearings straight before you’re on the ground.


“Definitely not going to make this meeting.”

Given the aforementioned massive congestion and disparate locations, it’s inevitable that some commitments made will need to be rescheduled or even unfortunately canceled at the last minute. It’s important to be flexible at the show and understand that some things are just out of your control.

Pro tip: Set expectations with all parties that some schedule shifting will likely have to take place on the spot at the show in order to accommodate high priority meetings. 


“I’d love to go to dinner but already spent my travel budget printing this document.”

It’s Vegas; almost everything is up charged, including but not limited to printing. Using hotel business and printing services can be quite costly and time consuming given the high demand from fellow CES attendees.

Pro tip: Print anything you’ll need before you get to Vegas and bring it with you. You’ll appreciate the big-time money and stress savings. 

If you plan to attend CES, bookmark these pro tips to ensure a productive time and prevent yourself from having to utter some of these phrases this year. 

How to Experience The Energy of The Vibrant New England Tech Economy

This month’s Mass Technology Leadership Council (MTLC) event felt different. The group unveiled the finalists for the 2019 Technology Leadership Awards, and to be sure, the setting was similar to previous events of its type– a fantastically brilliant new office space in Boston’s transformed seaport (in this case at PTC’s new HQ). The food was similar– passed hors d’oeuvres including a quite tasty vegetarian Lo Mein. The speakers were familiar– including the emcee, MTLC’s president Tom Hopcroft. But it felt different. 

Mass Technology Leadership Council President & CEO Tom Hopcroft announces the sponsors for the association’s annual awards program during an event at PTC headquarters in Boston on September 10, 2019.

Typically these events do have a fair amount of energy. The room fills with entrepreneurs who are running on adrenaline and have typically spent an inordinate amount of time building their ideas. Or there are the networkers—those looking to land a gig with the next big thing. Or people like me in Boston technology PR, interested to see what’s emerging on the tech landscape (and whether their clients made the finalist list. Hint: They did, and congrats to Akamai and Markforged for being named in multiple categories!).

But this year, the excitement had a

different quality.

One area of personal fascination for me of late has been how we are all responding to the new world of distrust we live in. It wasn’t that long ago, that a few hot tech brands were poised to save the world. Today many consumers just hope they can protect their data, or not share it with reckless abandon. 

As a result, I think we kind of like seeing one another. For my clients, reporters are much more willing now to meet people. Sure—there’s always been the quick check in during industry events, but today, reporters and influencers are taking meetings in their offices, at coffee shops… even after work at restaurants. I have no evidence to prove this, but I think it’s because it makes a big difference to look at someone in the eye.

It could also be a renewed interest in people and their personalities. Not sure if you have heard, but even PR is going through a digital transformation. And it’s kind of cool. Highwire is offering new services, such as content and influencer marketing. We’re leveraging technology so that our understanding of clients and markets can impact marketing in other ways. And we’re harvesting data based on our work to see how it correlates to the rest of marketing.

But amidst all things digital, we are all still human. We all still want to interact with other individuals. It’s our personalities that make us interesting, right?

And it takes a whole bunch of different personalities to create an innovation economy. That fact was on display at the MTLC event. Presenters announcing the award finalists included leaders from tech companies, from organizations supporting them, and even from non-tech vendors (including an insurance broker). The New England tech economy is vibrant. The MTLC awards program includes categories for manufacturing, healthcare, education, finance and insurance, robotics, sales and marketing, and security.

Seeing how the industry has a profound impact on so many, and supports so much ideation in the region, is pretty mesmerizing.

Dare I say, the energy one draws from it is invigorating. In this rapidly digitized world we all live in, such moments are significant to the work we do. 

INBOUND 2019: Key Takeaways

When I was given the last-minute opportunity to go to INBOUND 2019 on behalf of Highwire PR, I seized it. The star-studded lineup of entrepreneurs, philanthropists, not to mention my childhood idols, Katie Couric and Jennifer Garner, were right in front of me. 

INBOUND, hosted by HubSpot, is a conference for marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, and innovators alike. The four day conference boasts more than 24,000 attendees which includes speaker sessions with some of the world’s most successful leaders, philanthropists and business professionals. The goal of the event is to create a community of learning and collaboration. As I entered INBOUND and was greeted with Instagram-worthy swinging chairs, and Lil Nas’ “Old Town Road” on repeat, I knew I was in store for something much different than a typical conference. The show hosts more than 300 speaking sessions, I attended three that offered advice on everything from professional development to communicating more clearly. Here are the top three takeaways.  

The Importance of Believing In Your Work (and Yourself)

My favorite session was a spotlight series which was an interview style-discussion led by Katie Couric, along with Jennifer Garner and her business partner, John Foraker, around their organic food company, Once Upon a Farm. The session focused on the evolution of their business but it also highlighted Garner’s personal growth as she added “business owner” to her resume. Jennifer emphasized the importance of believing in not only your work, but yourself. She stated: “your success in finding work you can have an impact on is finding something you can really speak to.” It’s a simple statement but an important reminder that connecting to the work you do, and for PR professionals, investing in your client’s growth, is essential for success. 

Tell Stories that Will Elevate Meaningful Conversation 

In a similar spotlight series, the roles were reversed and Katie Couric was interviewed to discuss her journalism career, views on the news today and it’s future. 

Couric stressed the importance for journalists to “do something that has an impact beyond today’s traditional news cycle.” Every second, news is constantly cycling in and out so it’s important to take action. This is an important reminder for PR professionals to think like journalists and add value. One resounding statement echoed through INBOUND was “use your voice to elevate meaningful conversations.” Communication is much deeper than bullet points, and it’s important to tell a larger story for each client we serve. 

Find A Need and Fill It 

Outside of the sessions I attended, each speaker at INBOUND had one common path to success: they found a need, and they filled it. Sal Khan, Founder of Khan Academy, utilized YouTube to reach his goal of making education accessible and now has more than one million users of his academy. Katie Couric noticed a lack of solo female news broadcast and pushed to become the first female to anchor the CBS Evening News. Jennifer Garner created Once Upon a Farm because she saw that socioeconomic status dramatically impacted access to organic, non-GMO ingredients and food. Now, her products can be found at Target, Kroger and other major retailers.  These reminders from some of the most successful folks in their respective fields illustrates that there is always room at the table. 

Attending INBOUND opened my eyes to the guiding principles one should follow as I move forward in my career. I’m proud to work for a company that executes these principles on a daily basis, and encourages its employees to shoot for the stars.