Government Marketing University Hosts Panel of Former Gov CIOs

13 Jun Government Marketing University Hosts Panel of Former Gov CIOs

I was very excited to attend a breakfast panel last week called Market Chat Live, put on by Government Marketing University, an organization that is focusing on what a large part of SpeakerBox clients are interested in – the most effective ways to get in front of and market to their government customers.


The morning event held on Tuesday, June 7 at the Tower Club in Tysons, featured a panel of former government CIOs. Former CIO of EEOC and Government Marketing University ambassador Kimberly Hancher along with Government Marketing University founder, Lou Ann Brossman, moderated the event. The panel was entitled “Bringing Clarity to the clutter in Government Marketing, “ and panelists provided insight, tips and advice on how to reach them. The panel included:

  • Co-Moderator: Lou Ann Brossman
  • Co-Moderator: Kimberly Hancher, Former CIO EEOC, Current ambassador of Government Marketing University and Principal, Deep Water Point
  • Casey Coleman, Former CIO GSA, Current Civilian VP, Unisys
  • Karen Britton, Former Special Assistant to the President and CIO in the Office of Administration (OA) at the Executive Office of the President, Current Senior Vice President & COO, e-Management
  • Keith Trippie, Former Executive Director for the Enterprise System Development Office (ESDO) within Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) of the Department of Homeland Security, Current Co-Founder and Managing Member, urMuv LLC
  • John Johnson, Former Assistant Commissioner for Integrated Technology Services, GSA, Current Partner, Deep Water Point

Here were my main takeaways.

Understand your customer and your customers’ customers.

Brossman stated there are three key influencers in agencies and marketers need to understand them all to be successful:

  • The Senior Exec – An influencer, thought leader and decision maker. Someone we all want access to
  • The Mid-Level Director – Someone who truly impacts the technical strategy, and most technical decisions are actually made here. These are people in charge of a program, who are trained in contracting and supervise staff. These folks are often overlooked, but Sr. Execs depend on them
  • The Technicians – This includes IT specialists and SMEs who are hands on and provide input for what is needed for a contract

Listen, pay attention and drink beer.

When it came to discussing the roles involved in the decision-making process and how the panelists use the information they obtain to make decisions on what to buy, they kept it simple.

Britton said the key to making the best purchasing decisions was good old listening skills. She noted that in her role at the White House, she would listen to business owners and customers to find out what tools, people and processes were needed. Sometimes initiatives take a long time to implement, so she also recommended delivering something quickly while trying to build infrastructure and put processes in place.

Johnson, due to his role as a Commissioner and not a CIO, had a slightly different perspective, yet, he agreed that paying attention to customers – agencies and their CIOs – was essential for delivering the technology they would need to complete their missions readily.

Trippie, on the other hand, relies upon relationship building. As far as the roles involved with buying decisions, he would channel support from someone at every level and build relationships with the team involved with the project. He specifically suggested going to happy hour.

Early bird gets the worm and the D.C. advantage.

With all the money spent on marketing to government, what really works? What is the best way to reach those who are now in the shoes of our panelists?

If you wake up early enough, you might have been able to catch the eye of Trippie while he with DHS. He’d get in at 6AM and check his email. He urged marketers to send short emails that hit his inbox early to catch his eye. Then, he’s got two hours to respond before most people get to work. If he’s interested, he wants to meet on his time, 6:30AM for coffee.

But the rest of the group, was more interested in interacting through relationship building, trusted third party forums and industry organizations, many of which we’re lucky to have here in our own back yard in D.C. Hancher and Coleman mentioned some of the following, if you want to check them out:

RFPs, RFIs and “The Bachelorette”

Hancher set the stage for this topic by noting that government organizations are overly cautious when communicating with industry outside the RFP process and asked the panel to comment.

Johnson mentioned that government thinks they are more innovative than they are and often overlook how much they need industry to innovate.

Britton said that agencies are putting their challenges out there – the hardcore issues they need help with – in the form of RFIs. She recommends that industry take the time to reply to these.

Coleman noted innovation is often stifled from the second-guessing that comes from departments such as HR, legal, etc. We need to start small with innovation because if something goes wrong there are immense consequences.

Then, there was my favorite panelist, Keith Trippie. He uses “The Bachelorette Model” and insists you can’t go on two dates and get hitched – it just won’t work. You have to have continuous communication to know what the other party likes. You can’t possibly know if they like long walks on the beach after just one date. It’s the same with government and industry, there has to be an ongoing and continuous dialogue to know which solutions will work best.

The Case Study Conundrum.

There were a few questions asked, but I wanted to focus on one main question that I think is most relevant to us as marketers – how to get government case studies approved (apologies, I did not hear the woman’s name who asked it). During the panel, several panelists alluded to the fact that hearing what companies have done for other agencies to help them solve similar problems to their own is something they hold in high regard when selecting a technology.

Hancher recommended getting an interview set up with the sponsoring executive of a project, which may be a better environment to encourage them to open up about the project, instead of the formal channels for a written case study.

This prompted a follow-up question of “how do we get this interview?”

I’m not sure it was the answer the questioner wanted, but Hancher recommended a simple ask. “No government official can endorse, recommend or influence a specific product, but we can talk about the impact, how it affected the mission and you can tell stories about that,” she said. “The forms that get attached to all competitive procurements are systematic and don’t allow creative license. Getting an interview is difficult sometimes, but execs are used to that format.”

When Johnson had his turn to respond, he admitted that the conservative nature of the CIO makes this very difficult. The government can’t be flexible in giving access to program information/past performance. He’d like to more flexibility for this sort of thing, but there’s no short-term solution.

Brossman acknowledged the case study as the “Holy Grail” for marketers, and something that has often felt next to impossible to obtain. She recommended reaching out and asking to speak with agency execs and have a conversation about how their technology has impacted a specific program.

**Save the date for the next Government Marketing University event, September 22-23 in Leesburg, VA. Details TBD at


Kate Nesbitt
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