Palo Alto Software MommyCEO Positioned as a National Advocate for Working Women
Palo Alto Software provides small businesses around the world with cloud-based software tools developed to support business growth and success. Based in Eugene, Ore., the company offers a variety of software products, including LivePlan, a sophisticated online dashboard that makes it easy for entrepreneurs to create business plans and track key financial metrics in real time.
CEO Sabrina Parsons, also known as “Mommy CEO” on Twitter and her personal blog, is also an outspoken advocate for women in the workplace. The software company prides itself on its family-friendly tech space, an industry with a reputation for not supporting a work-life balance for working parents.
When Palo Alto Software initially partnered with Walker Sands, the public relations program primarily focused on promoting the company’s small business planning software.
Soon after, Palo Alto Software expanded the scope to include CEO Sabrina Parsons’ personal brand as an advocate for women in the workplace. Parsons already had an existing blog, Mommy CEO, and Twitter presence, @mommyceo, where she shared her perspective on balancing a family and career as CEO of a growing software company.
As a successful female CEO in a male-dominated software and technology industry, Parsons took exception to Sheryl Sandberg’s philosophy described in the popular book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.” Although the Palo Alto Software executive respects what the Facebook COO has done for women, Parsons did not subscribe to the belief that female employees must “lean in” to a male-centric workplace. Instead, the mother of three boys is an advocate for changing the norms of corporate America to level the playing field for women, especially working moms—an attitude that is reflected in the corporate culture at Palo Alto Software.
To make a splash on a national scale and turn the passionate tech executive into a thought leader on women’s issues, Walker Sands was tasked with developing a strategic public relations campaign with several primary business objectives:
At the beginning of the campaign, Walker Sands conducted extensive research to support Parsons’ claims that the prevailing Silicon Valley work-to-death mentality was not best for business or highly qualified working mothers. With data from well-respected sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, University of Denver and Center for Work-Life Policy, Walker Sands worked with Parsons to craft a coherent and compelling viewpoint around women in the workplace.
The first phase of the campaign focused on building credibility for Parsons’ anti “Lean In” message. Local media coverage and opinion pieces in business publications helped establish visibility for Parsons and her opposing viewpoint. With a solid foundation of media coverage, Walker Sands moved into the second phase of the campaign, working to elevate Parsons on a national and global platform advocating for more family-friendly workplaces.
For both campaign phases, Walker Sands developed media pitches around timely stories, breaking news and contributed articles, as well as generated high-profile speaking engagements. To promote subsequent placements and speeches, Walker Sands shared the content on the Mommy CEO and Palo Alto Software social media channels, interacting with influencers and commenters online. The team also launched SabrinaParsons.com as a platform to showcase all of the media coverage and promote Parsons’ availability for interviews and speeches.
Walker Sands’ strategic public relations campaign successfully elevated Parsons’ perspective and the Palo Alto Software brand to a global stage. The team’s first media placement was a contributed article in Business Insider titled, “Female Tech CEO Says ‘Leaning In’ Isn’t the Answer,” that outlined Parsons’ concerns with Sandberg’s philosophy and discussed her alternative approach to fostering a family-friendly business environment. The piece quickly went viral, receiving more than 125,000 views, 26,000 Facebook shares and dozens of comments. The PR program took off from there, as the article generated additional inbound media requests and established credibility for future media outreach.
A subsequent feature story in Fast Company called “The Tech Company With The Radical Idea That Having A Baby Shouldn’t Derail Your Career” achieved similar results, earning more than 17,000 shares on social media. Piggy-backing off the success of the Business Insider and Fast Company pieces, Walker Sands coordinated several additional key media wins for Parsons and Palo Alto Software, including:
The Al Jazeera segment, titled “Wean In,” was an unqualified success for Palo Alto Software. The TV news organization flew to Eugene, Ore., and spent two days following and interviewing Parsons, heralding her in the segment as a “trailblazing CEO” for her policy that allows employees to bring children to the office.
Walker Sands also secured several high-profile speaking engagements for Parsons, including:
In addition to significant media coverage and speaking engagements, Walker Sands helped grow Parsons’ Twitter following by more than 75 percent. As a result of the campaign, Parsons is squarely positioned at the center of women in the workplace conversations. Moving forward, Walker Sands will continue to support Parsons and Palo Alto Software’s ongoing PR efforts