Palo Alto Software Social Media Campaign

Thought leadership campaign delivers 650 percent increase in social media mentions for female-driven software company


earned media placements (more than 50 percent were top tier)


increase in Twitter followers


as many social media mentions


major speaking events including a trip to the White House

Project Overview

Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software, wanted to take a stand on gender inequality and position herself as a go-to thought leader in the fight to close the gender gap. Walker Sands produced a research report about gender discrimination in American workplaces, and devised a campaign around it. This work framed Parsons as an “anti-Lean In activist” in media placements and doubled her Twitter followers.

Read the full project overview


The Challenge

As a successful female CEO in the male-dominated technology industry, Sabrina Parsons took exception to Sheryl Sandberg’s book, "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead." While the executive at Palo Alto Software respects what the Facebook COO has done for women, Parsons believes that female employees shouldn’t be forced to “lean in” to a workplace designed for men. Instead, the mother of three boys is an advocate for changing the norms of corporate America to level the playing field for women, especially those with children.

The goal of this program was to make Parsons a go-to thought leader in the fight to close the gender gap in America by publicizing her cutting-edge workplace policies and unique opinions.

The Solution

Walker Sands conducted web-based research to gain a strong understanding of Sandberg’s argument and researched statistics about the typical workplace in America and the lack of women in leadership roles.

Additionally, Walker Sands conducted a survey of both men and women in various corporate positions to produce a research report about the state of gender discrimination in American workplaces. This research along with outside employment and diversity data supported the opposing claim and allowed the Palo Alto and Walker Sands teams to devise an overall strategy including a mix of media pitching on trend stories, media pitching on timely topics and breaking news, guest blog posts, monthly contributed articles, local speaking engagements and conferences.

The Results

Over the course of the partnership, Walker Sands secured 30 placements that frame Parsons as an “anti-Lean In activist.” Parsons’ Twitter following grew 100 percent in a little over a year. “Sabrina Parsons” or “@mommyceo” were mentioned 3,314 times on social media – compared to 440 times in the previous year. During the campaign, Parsons spoke at four major events including a trip to the White House.

Currently, Palo Alto Software’s development team is 30 percent women, which is over twice the national average of about 12 percent. The company saw an increase in female applicants for traditionally male coding and engineering jobs and almost a third of the interviews they conducted were with female applicants.