Q&A: Lisa M. Sherwin Wulf, Federal Marketing Leader at SolarWinds, Discusses Cybersecurity Thought Leadership Research - (Archived)

lisa-m-sherwin-wulfEarlier this year, SolarWinds, a leading provider of powerful and affordable IT management software, in conjunction with Market Connections, launched a study revealing that while a majority of federal IT professionals claim their agencies are cybersecurity-ready, they still face malicious insider and outsider threats.

In addition, the study found that many agencies are still confronted by threats from careless and untrained insiders, and are tasked with mastering IT security despite organizational and budget challenges.

SolarWinds has used this research for some advanced thought leadership marketing strategies that include publicity, social media promotions, webinars, speaking engagements, demand generation and much more.

FedPulse had the opportunity to speak with Lisa M. Sherwin Wulf, Federal Marketing Leader at SolarWinds, about how the company is leveraging the findings in unique and effective ways.

FedPulse:  Tell us about the research you implemented with Market Connections around internal and external cyber threats and federal agencies.

Sherwin Wulf:  We wanted to launch a comprehensive thought leadership campaign that was grounded in research and showed the daily obstacles that federal agencies face when it comes to cybersecurity.  We also wanted to gain insights from both federal IT and IT security professionals to give a more comprehensive view of the challenges our users face.

With the help of Market Connections, we implemented a blind online survey of 200 IT and IT security professional decision-makers in the federal government and military with regards to cyber preparedness.

We found it interesting that 94 percent of respondents rated their agencies’ cybersecurity readiness as good or excellent, and many believe that they have the necessary cybersecurity tools, processes and policies already in place. Yet at the same time, people are agencies’ own biggest cybersecurity hazard, with external hacking as the top cybersecurity threat plaguing federal agencies, according to half of respondents.

FedPulse: Why was this type of research project important to SolarWinds?

Sherwin Wulf: It is very important to us. We wanted to see what was really happening in the marketplace and gain a better understanding of the challenges that our federal users face so we can do our best to address them with our technology.  We have gotten feedback from our users that it was also was helpful information for them to assess their own security in comparison with other federal agencies.

FedPulse: How did you use the results of the survey to advance your marketing efforts?

Sherwin Wulf:  We worked closely with Market Connections and our corporate communications team to develop a multi-month campaign, which is actually still going on right now.

What was exciting for us was that we had so much relevant content in the research results we were able to leverage it in multiple ways for a long period of time.  Our users also responded very favorably to this information, which was relevant for both IT and cybersecurity departments.

We initially released the research through a press release, which helped us secure a significant amount of press coverage.  In conjunction with this effort, we issued the full results through SlideShare, and hosted a webinar with the Digital Government Institute (DGI).  We also shared the results through an online event with GovDefenders, and spoke at the recent DGI Cyber Security Conference & Expo about the results.  A highly comprehensive white paper and an infographic were also developed and released.

FedPulse: Do you find these types of research programs to be effective for marketing your cyber security capabilities?

Sherwin Wulf:  Absolutely. Though, while we are not finished with this marketing program, it has been highly effective to date.  These first few phases have helped enhance our overall brand awareness for SolarWinds federal, as well as increased demand generation activities, and helped us gain deeper insights into the needs and challenges of the federal IT and IT security communities.

FedPulse: Anything else to add?

Sherwin Wulf:  Yes, I would like to mention that taking a strategic, thoughtful approach to this research program helped set us up for success.  We knew the areas within cybersecurity we wanted to gather market intelligence on, how they aligned with SolarWinds and our users’ interests, as well as the types of marketing activities we wanted to leverage the research results for. From there, we structured the research and development of content accordingly.

In terms of the research outcomes, we were surprised by how there was no difference in responses based on job titles. Whether IT Operations or Information Security, they all faced the same challenges and threats, and it was great to see that the majority of agencies believe that they were getting solid ROI from their current continuous monitoring efforts.

SolarWinds was awarded the Overall Best in Show award last week at the 2014 AFCEA Cyber Conference Solutions Trail for its research, AFCEA Cybersecurity through Continuous Monitoring: SolarWinds Survey Results and Tools Overview. Here is a link to the presentation, which provides a transcript of the award-winning research.

We would like to thank Lisa for taking the time to speak with FedPulse.  To learn more about this study, click here.

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