We question the assumption that criminal organizations avoid limelight, shunning publicity, and instead provide theory and evidence of the conditions under which violent criminal groups use propaganda. Relying on a data set of approximately 1,800 banners publicly deployed by Mexican drug cartels from 2008 to 2010, we identify the conditions under which criminal groups decide to communicate overtly with the government, their rivals, and/or citizens. show that criminal groups “go public” when they face interorganizational contestation, when there is competition over information with the local media, and when there is local demand for drugs. Furthermore, we find that the correlates of criminal propaganda are distinct from those of criminal violence, suggesting that this phenomenon is explained by separate dynamics. Our paper contributes to developing a more solid understanding of political communication among illegal actors and the informal rules dominating their markets.