Virtual Black Hat USA 2020: 6 Tips for Maximizing Media Relations and Social Media Efforts

Jul 21, 2020 Harrison Calato

In the new COVID-19 world, conferences have gone from the busy trade show floors to your home office via video conference. While it’s not ideal, we as an industry can still make the most of this new virtual format. And this year’s Black Hat USA conference is no different. The conference still provides many opportunities to catch up with reporters, network with fellow cybersecurity marketers and learn from some of the greatest threat researchers in the industry.

In light of this format change, many of our clients have come to us looking for counsel -- following are our six tips on how to proceed, plan and execute media relations and social media tactics before, as well as during, the show. 

6 tips for media relations and social media success ahead Black Hat USA

#1: Host one-on-one pre-briefings before the event: If you’re releasing company news or research during the show, this is critical. Since reporters will be attending remotely as well, they’ll be working while juggling other commitments (like childcare and covering breaking news that day) as a result of not being fully out of office when traveling. By scheduling pre-briefings days before the show begins, this allows reporters to have ample prep time to write a detailed story that can then be published for an embargo lift during the show. 

#2: “Save the date” outreach: If you’re speaking at a breakout session or have a keynote secured, make reporters aware of this. Include an abstract and detailed logistics in your pitch and confirm their attendance with a calendar invite. You may also want to schedule a virtual press conference following the speaking session -- which leads up to tip #3.

#3: Host a virtual roundtable: Reporters are hard-pressed for time, making virtual 1:1 briefings difficult to secure during the show. Pair one or two of your executives up for a virtual roundtable with 3-5 strategically selected reporters to have a larger conversation on a timely, relevant (read: non-promotional) topic. Have a customer who can join? Even better, as this is a much bigger draw for reporters who are always on the hunt for third party, non-vendor sources. Try to make this event on the record, it helps to encourage reporters to write something around the discussion.

#4: People want to feel connected: The biggest downfall of virtual conferences is the lack of personal facetime with other attendees. To compensate for this, social media is essential. Encourage other brands and attendees to share pictures of where they’re viewing the conference from. Ask them to tweet their favorite learnings throughout the conference too.

  • For example, Instagram Stories are a great way to make people feel like they are connected and not isolated. You can prep content + videos ahead of time and publish the Stories during the event (examples: Exec Q&As, blooper reels of pre-recorded sessions, gather questions ahead of the event, etc.)

#5: You’re not alone, everyone is new at this: Have your CEO or another executive start a Twitter thread on learnings the night after day one, as a first-timer for the virtual event. This can create some engagement/excitement throughout the week. A great example by InkHouse client Okta’s CEO, Todd McKinnon (@toddmckinnon) here

#6: Live Tweet during virtual keynotes: Have a dedicated individual that attends each virtual keynote to live Tweet key learnings and interesting points being discussed. Ask questions for others to interact with while also tuned into the keynote. 

  • Pull together the social media handles for any speakers or companies you would like to mention.
  • Prep links for all blog content so you’re not wasting time creating unique links during the conference.Draft as much copy as you can ahead of time if you are planning on live posting during keynotes or different sessions - it will be helpful as things move quickly.
Overall, this year’s Black Hat conference is going to be different for us all. Being prepared, having a plan and staying on task in terms of execution will enable your organization to still have a successful product launch, corporate news announcement or research report, generating the buzz we’re traditionally accustomed to seeing during one of the busiest weeks in the security industry. At the end of the day, staying safe and healthy is what matters most. Hopefully next year, we’ll be back in the entertainment capital of the world. 

Stay tuned for our next blog post in InkHouse’s lead up to the conference, where we speak to the actual organizers of this year’s virtual Black Hat. You don’t want to miss it!

In case you haven’t already, subscribe to our newsletter here or contact a member of our security practice at

Topics: cybersecurity, Black Hat, security practice
Harrison Calato

Harrison is a core practitioner of media relations and content development across all of his accounts. He primarily works across security and B2B tech accounts, placing bylines and securing targeted media coverage in business press and security, IT and vertical trade publications as appropriate. He keeps a constant pulse on pressing security news, always alerting the team of relevant trends, breaches and other security-related topics.

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