How Ixia's CEO is revamping its image and internal comms

Ixia's Bethany Mayer talks to Diana Bradley about how the tech security organization is revamping its image and internal communications.

Ixia CEO Bethany Mayer
Ixia CEO Bethany Mayer

After former Ixia CEO Vic Alston was ousted for falsifying his résumé, the company struggled, reporting a net loss of $18 million in Q1 2014 and staff layoffs of up to 6% last summer. How did you boost employee morale when you took over in September?
Just having a new CEO in place was a boost in morale. My networking background was also a strong vote of confidence for the company moving forward. [Prior to Ixia, Mayer led Hewlett-Packard’s network function virtualization business.]

Upon my arrival, I talked to employees to hear their thoughts about what happened and how we can move forward. A staff survey highlighted key areas we needed to work on to increase employee satisfaction and help ourselves from a business perspective.

What areas did you need to work on?
One area was communication. Due to what transpired in 2014, and the fact that the company had not been able to file for most of that year, the executive team could not communicate about where the company was financially and how it was doing. Communication needed to be re-established so people knew where we are going, what we had done, and what the results were.   

We are putting a comms initiative in place that better connects people. Every two weeks, I send out an email to our 1,800 employees across 23 countries and occasionally create videos. We also have town hall meetings and regular lunches.

Ixia missed several SEC filings last year, but appears to be on track now. How are you quelling investors’ concerns?
Ixia’s Q3 2014 revenue was $114 million, compared with $113.2 million reported for Q3 2013. However, the 2014 figure includes $17.3 million in revenue from Internet software developer Net Optics, which Ixia acquired in December 2013. In January, analysts upgraded Ixia shares from sell to hold.

We communicate with investors through quarterly earnings calls. We also do road shows and will be attending conferences with investors. We make sure we are being transparent about our company and results.

You are creating a new image around Ixia.
The message we previously used was that Ixia is a provider of comprehensive network tests and network visibility products. This is true, but this message was limiting and didn’t express the value we bring customers.

Now, we are focused on the value proposition, which is the application performance and security resilience of our products, to make sure people have a clear understanding of the brand and the direction it is taking.

How are you promoting the new message?
Ixia updated its website and created a video, which was published online, to highlight what our customer pain points are, how we solve them, and the ROI for customers. We are training our sales force to talk about our value proposition to customers and created a partner portal to provide training and marketing tools. Helping press and analysts understand Ixia is another piece.

How are you communicating in light of the growing issue of data breaches?
We have been promoting our solutions that can help companies harden their networks from these attacks. For instance, when the Shellshock bug emerged last year, we created a simulation of the bug within one day so customers who use our products can run a validation through their network to make sure it couldn’t be attacked by that virus.

We have been blogging and tweeting about how to block and resist cyberattacks and creating ebooks to help customers go through a process on how to protect their networks. We have also been doing media relations around the issue and providing professional services and consulting to customers.

How large is your communications team and what PR agencies do you work with?
Our comms team has about 15 people. Lewis PR is our AOR and handles worldwide PR, media relations, and social media.

How important is it for the tech industry to get more women involved?
There are still not enough women involved in the tech sector, especially at senior leadership level, and I hope that as young women see more women in leadership in this area, they will understand this is a great business segment with a lot of opportunities.

To encourage networking and education among women at Ixia, we have an internal women’s networking group. We discuss how we can collaborate and provide insights into various teams within the company.

How does your social media team engage with consumers?
Ixia leverages social media to boost awareness around product launches, corporate initiatives, and industry events. We’ve seen steady growth across all channels in 2014 – such as a 26% growth in Twitter followers and 24% audience growth on LinkedIn.

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