June 1, 2022

Content Marketing Strategies for “Securing Your Cheese” with Karen Walsh

by Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing

Show Notes

We’re joined by Karen Walsh, Founder and CEO of Allegro Solutions, on the podcast today to talk about the good, bad, and ugly of cybersecurity content marketing. As a compliance expert, former professor, lawyer, and kickass cybersecurity auditor, Karen shares her formula for content marketing success, educates us on educating our audience, and even gives us a quick peek at one of her many talents outside of the cybersecurity space. 

Timecoded Summary:

  • [01:17] Introducing Karen and the concept of GRC (governance, risk, compliance)
  • [04:27] Educating your audience through correct usage of webpage real estate
  • [13:02] Discovering the formula for solid content marketing copy
  • [22:46] Throwing out a few vague and unhelpful content marketing “bad words” 
  • [34:41] Kicking ass in cybersecurity as a woman, a marketer, and a freelancer


Thank you to our sponsors and producers Hacker Valley Media! Chris Cochran and Ron Eddings run an amazing studio, which produces not only the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast, but a bunch of other shows that you're going to want to listen to as well. You can check these all out at HackerValley.com


Do we really need to explain this again? 

When explaining the essentials of educating your audience, Karen encounters more than her fair share of clients who think they don’t have to explain or educate as much as they do. Education cannot be made with assumptions or without proper research into your audience. Although many of your potential clients may understand the terms you’re using, explaining and educating instead of assuming will avoid making an “*ss” out of anyone. 

“Have high standards of educating those who are coming into your website. They need to know things and they're not going to take that next step to convert if they don't understand and if you haven't educated them.”


How do you mix in SEO in order to be telling a good story to your buying audience, but also try and rank for terms for when people are searching?

Karen believes that SEO and content marketing is a formula, and bases a lot of her work around the essentials of that formula. These are three challenges that X industry has when trying to do Y security functions. Through explaining the challenges faced and the methods that could be used to solve them, you’re training yourself to not only educate, but to take up essential website real estate with impactful on-page SEO.

“I mean, it's formulaic. You set out a business problem that you're looking to solve, right? You define what that business problem is, and when you're defining what that business problem is, you focus on certain terms.”


What are your top marketing buzzwords to avoid on content?

Karen loves many things about content marketing, but there are some words that she cannot stand, including frictionless and actionable. For Karen, these words are vague and unhelpful in your marketing, leaving more questions than answers for potential clients. Get specific and explain why or how what you can provide separates your company from the pack. Don’t fall victim to meaningless marketing words when specificity can help so much more. 

“And I think part of the problem with a lot of these terms is people haven't really thought about what they mean by the term and so, it makes them meaningless.” 


How do you earn respect in cybersecurity as a woman and a marketer who knows her shit?

There are already huge barriers for women in cybersecurity, especially when coupled with non-technical roles, such as marketing and writing—  both of which are Karen’s specialties. Karen explains that, for her, there’s also the third layer of being a freelancer. Oftentimes, cybersecurity companies are playing into their own internal biases without realizing it and hurting freelancers by assuming negative things about their skills and quality of work. 

“I know I'm a good writer. It's what I like doing. I don't want to code, but I have to make sure people don't treat me like I'm stupid because I don't do the technical job, which goes along with the marketing because they think marketing is fluff.”


Spend some time with our guest Karen Walsh on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and the Allegro Solutions website 

Additional resources mentioned in this podcast: Karen Walsh on Rate My Professor, Dark  Reading, Security Mag, Feedly’s cybersecurity feed, Help Net, Votiro, TryHackMe, Black Girls in Cyber, Tricia Kicks SaaS, Everest Shoulder Rest, Lindsey Stirling

Follow Gianna on LinkedIn

Catch up with Maria on LinkedIn

Join the Cybersecurity Marketing Society on our website, and keep up with us on Twitter

Keep up with Hacker Valley on our website, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter



Content Marketing Strategies for “Securing Your Cheese” with Karen Walsh
Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing
Gianna 00:00
Welcome to the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast.
Maria 00:04
Where we explore the hottest topics in cyber marketing.
Gianna 00:07
Interview experts.
Maria 00:08
And help you become a better cybersecurity marketer.
Maria 00:19
Hello, hello, welcome to another episode of Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast. I'm your host Maria Velazquez and with me...
Gianna 00:28
Gianna Whitver.
Maria 00:30
And we're so excited for today's guest. We have Karen Walsh, who is the CEO and Founder of Allegro Solutions. Allegro Solutions provides quality technology and cybersecurity content marketing services for so many of our member cybersecurity vendors within the society and many other awesome clients. Most importantly, she's a lawyer, she's a compliance expert, and a kickass scary auditor, so don't get on her bad side. She has green hair, and is just awesome all around. We can't wait to get into today's topic. We'll be talking content marketing, we'll be talking buzzwords, and everything that Karen hates in content marketing. It's gonna be a great episode. Karen, tell us a little bit about yourself, and then we'll jump right into the questions we have for you.
Karen 01:17
Sure. So, the TLDR, I was an English major, started working in Environmental Claims in insurance, which was Complex Claims Litigation, went to law school at night, hated it. It was a terrible life choice, never wanted to be a lawyer. I really went because I wanted to be a lobbyist, but I stayed in Connecticut. Hi, I'm from Connecticut, and I did internal audit instead, did some first-year college writing teaching for about 11 years, so I did that for 11 years, and I did internal audit for 12. And then, I ended up in cybersecurity marketing because when I lost an audit client, my first client saw compliance, didn't know there was a difference between IT and Bank Secrecy Act for banks, and here I am today, and I love it. It's the best thing I've ever done. Well, financially, it's the best thing I've ever done. Teaching was like, the soul food that didn't pay anything for like, real food.
Gianna 02:13
Can you tell us a little bit about what audit even means in the context of cybersecurity?
Karen 02:19
Sure. When you're talking about audits and when you're talking about cybersecurity, no matter what type of audit it is, it follows the principles of GRC. G is your governance, which means your board and your senior leadership know what's going on and understand things. Risk is what they really need to do, it's what they need to assess. What could happen and how likely is it and what would the impact be? And then compliance is, here's the list of things you need to be doing and here's a bunch of boxes and make sure you check them off. And the biggest problem, especially in cybersecurity, since that is us, is that traditional approaches to compliance are really around this whole "check the box" concept, like, "Make sure everything is done, tick it off, and once it's done, you're good." The problem, and this is really important as marketers to remember, compliance is a minimum baseline. So, it's like, if you're not doing this, you're really kind of terrible at what you're doing. With cybersecurity, a lot of times you really should be going beyond just these baselines and these minimums. And that's where my real approach to things when I write and I work with clients is the idea of security-first compliance. You start by securing everything because once you have all those technical controls in place, then when the auditors go to look at and see what you've done, they're like, "Oh, you definitely have the minimum baselines." And, in theory, you should be going beyond that.
Maria 03:49
Makes sense. I love how you explained that in the simplest of terms. Like, now I truly understand what GRC is.
Gianna 03:57
Also, all of you listeners don't get to experience this, but I also liked how you moved your hands around, that was also very good and helpful.
Karen 04:06
My mom is Italian-American and so, if I don't talk with my hands, I'm not talking, obviously.
Gianna 04:14
So, Karen, where should we take this to start? Should we talk about the things you hate? Or should we talk about the things you love? Or should we talk about writing?
Karen 04:21
Let's start with something positive.
Maria 04:23
Yeah, it's Friday after all, we're recording this on a Friday.
Karen 04:27
It's Friday, we're recording this on a Friday. I love content marketing, because there is an ability to be either formulaic or creative, and I think it really depends on the approach you want to take. And I'm very deeply steeped in SEO, I have a very fundamental belief in three things around content marketing. One, your website, every aspect of it, including your blog, is real estate. And I always explain this to new clients, especially early stage startups, it's real estate, it's high value real estate, especially with everybody deciding now that we've all been home for a couple years, that what they want to do is check things out digitally before they make any kind of commitment to talking to an actual human being. And if you weren't going to put a building that would bring you value on a piece of high value real estate, and you were just gonna leave that blank or you were just gonna put up the she shed that I've been asking for two years.
Maria 05:30
We're gonna put up a GoFundMe. We'll get you a she shed, Karen.
Karen 05:33
I want a she shed so bad. If you're only gonna put up your she shed for two years on your website, you're not optimizing that high value real estate. So, you're paying all the taxes, you are dealing with all of the upkeep, but you're not getting the benefit of what you could be getting, you're not getting rent from people for example. If you're just putting a shisha instead of an apartment building or an office complex on that high value real estate, you're not getting— I'm going to talk about my she shed a lot, but you're not getting the value of that high value real estate. So, that's my first thing that I like to talk about, and that's where SEO will come in. Second, it's really how people view you. Again, we're living in a world where everybody wants to go to the internet, they want to look things up, they want to vet everything. So, what you need to be doing is making sure that you are explaining what you do in a way that's meaningful to that person. And in content marketing, it's really hard because and again,
especially the early stage startups that I work with a lot, they focus a lot on their technology, how cool it is, how lean it is. The problem is you have more than one audience. You have your technical audience, who might be using it, but you also have your business audience, your C-suite level, the people who have an actual wallet, and so those are the people that you also have to talk to, and you have to understand the value that you bring to them. Not only so that they recognize it, but to enable those technical users to talk them into purchasing it. Three, that really leads into education. I spent eleven long years teaching first-year college writing to a bunch of 18-year-olds, many of whom were engineering majors, I might add, all of whom— Okay, most of whom disliked me immensely. Professor Walsh. Oh, yeah, go ahead, look up Rate My Professor for Karen Walsh, you'll have a good time with that.
Gianna 07:44
Oh my gosh, we're gonna put that in the show notes.
Karen 07:48
Yeah, there were people who loved me, there were people who hated me, because I had really high standards. And I think, again, that boils into what you put on your website. Have high standards of educating those who are coming into your website. They need to know things and they're not going to take that next step to convert if they don't understand and if you haven't educated them. And education means giving them a way to explain things and do things. So, a really great example that I talk about a lot with clients. I taught for 11 years, I keep saying this, but it's really important to this particular story. I also graduated in 1986, and so what I learned was that I was asking my students for seven of the years I was teaching to write a thesis statement, and I'd say, "Write a thesis statement." And I had learned it was subject, verb that has an opinion, and three arguments, right? Easy structure, y'all, it took me
seven years to finally ask students. "Do you know what I mean when I say a thesis statement?" And they were like, "No, what do you mean?" And that entirely changed the way I approach things. And it was like, four years later, when I realized they didn't know what a subject and verb were, in a sense. Conceptually, they understood it, and again, this really does apply to cybersecurity, I'm coming back to it. Because I think a lot of times C-suite leaders conceptually understand cybersecurity, but when I said, "Here's the sentence, tell me the subject and the verb." They couldn't do that. So, I think a lot of that informs how I approach my writing because if you assume— And you know what they say about those of us who assume, but this is a PG podcast.
Gianna 09:49
No, it's not.
Maria 09:54
Please do curse.
Karen 09:55
Oh, well, it makes an ass out of you and me. When we assume that customers coming onto our website know something, we're making that same mistake. And most startups don't have seven years to realize, "Oh crap, my customer coming in doesn't know what I mean by this term." And they don't have an additional four years just say, "Oh, well, I use that term and I thought they understood, but there's a fundamental element of that term that they don't really get." And so, clients will say to me, "Well, do we really need to explain this again?" I'm like, "Yeah, yeah, we really, really kind of do we really do." Because you don't know where in someone's education journey they're coming to your content, right?
Maria 10:35
That's so true, and on the homepage is exactly where you want to cater for that, right? You want to cater for the different personas and cater for the different stages in the customer journey and where somebody is.
Karen 10:45
And it's super hard, and I think that’s why cybersecurity specifically is super difficult because you have two very different audiences. It's not like, a regular business where, yeah, you have all marketing professionals coming to a marketing automation, right? Everybody who's looking at it understands that the same way. You don't have that in cybersecurity, and I think that's particularly challenging, and it gets why things like— And it's not something I do personally, but I know some people who do is like, those short videos that are basically like, just somebody on a screen clicking through to show how something works on the inside. Putting that along with the business proposition and the business problem you solve, that's a good way to align those two audiences and tell them the messages they need. Because your technical person really wants the inside, your business person really wants the,
"Okay, so what are you doing to make my life easier?"
Maria 11:47
Everybody take notes: Explainer videos with ROI messaging on the side for the business wire. Love it. What about those that don't want to show the inside on marketing videos, and they want you to get on a personal demo?
Karen 12:03
I don't think the videos have to be deep. I've seen somewhere it's not even 30 seconds, like a five second click through of a particular feature. It's like having a teaser at the beginning of a movie, like, we did for the ad for this podcast. You have a teaser, it tells you who it is and it gives you a little visibility, now everybody knows that I didn't put makeup on today. It gives you a little visibility into the inside of that person's life. They could see my office and that my door was open, that I didn't have makeup on today.
Maria 12:39
I put on lipstick for you. I know you that you like this color.
Karen 12:42
Yes, I do. It looks amazing.
Gianna 12:45
I did the opposite. I rolled around in dirt before I got on the call.
Karen 12:52
But I think that's the challenge that a lot of people are facing is, yes, you have people who don't want to see the inside, okay, but at least give them what a dashboard might look like. Give them a picture of the dashboard.
Gianna 13:02
So, Karen, if we take this and say, "Hey, we want to both talk to the technical buyer and the business buyer?" How do you translate that into content? And let's add another layer, let's be really difficult here, let's say, and we want it to be SEO optimized. What do you do? How do you mix in SEO in order to be telling a good story to your buying audience, but also try and rank for terms for when people are searching?
Karen 13:30
Yeah, that's the big challenge, right? Because you do have these two audience members. So, a lot of times, I've said this in the Cybersecurity Marketing Slack, so, I'm certainly not sharing something out of band. My secret sauce is that everything is kind of formulaic. Now, you guys all don't have to hire me, I guess, but I mean, it's formulaic. You set out a business problem that you're looking to solve, right? You define what that business problem is, and when you're defining what that business problem is, you focus on certain terms that your SEO generating technologies will help you with. You explain, because you want to create empathy, what the challenges are, even if you're doing it like, in the third person, like, an objective third person, by saying, "These are three challenges that X industry has when trying to do Y security function," you're showing that you understand and that you empathize. And then, this is
the one: you give them actionable steps, like, three steps to securing your BLANK with your BLANK.
Gianna 14:38
Three steps to securing your cheese with your baseball bat.
Karen 14:41
Gianna 14:42
Oh, it's Mad Libs.
Karen 14:44
It's Mad Libs. And those steps are things that you're really good at. So, if you're a baseball bat— This one's gonna throw me because I'm gonna make the analogy and I'm gonna follow it through, but I gotta pause and my brains gotta catch up. If you're a baseball bat, how do you secure the cheese, right? So, what's your plus one?
Gianna 15:05
I'm so sorry for suggesting this.
Maria 15:07
We have to change this episode title.
Karen 15:10
Securing Your Cheese with a Baseball Bat.
Maria 15:12
Content Marketing Strategies for Securing Your Cheese.
Karen 15:20
You can make the argument, here's the thing, it's all about rhetoric. Marketing is social engineering. We all know that, right? You're telling the story in the way that the person wants to hear it, right? Okay, so, securing your cheese with a baseball bat. Okay, so number one, what can you do? You're a baseball bat, right? You're made of— Let's use a wooden one because I'm thinking of that. You sell wooden baseball bats, and cheese is life for me, so, now I'm going to be hungry. So, what are your plus ones? Your large-ish, you can be used physically to hurt someone else, you weigh a lot. Those your plus ones. So, what are you gonna do? You're gonna say, "Okay, one, if somebody's coming for your cheese, whack them on in the knee, it feels better than the head." This just got very quiet and weird. Okay, that's the obvious plus one, right? But your less obvious ones might be, okay, you can use it to
shut the door to the room that the cheese is in. So, you can wedge it under the doorknob, so that somebody can't get in. So, first, we had you can use it to hurt someone, two, we have that it's big, right? Because that would be how you would get it wedged under the doorknob. Three, it's heavy. So, maybe you're using it to protect your cheese from your toddler because toddlers like cheese. And so you put the baseball bat on top of the box that the cheese is in.
Maria 16:51
I thought you were going with whacking your toddler.
Karen 16:54
I mean, when my kid was four, there were a lot of times where I felt violent, but they're 13 now and that changes.
Gianna 17:01
So, I think this is going to lead us to another interesting point, I learned a lot about how to protect your cheese while using a baseball bat, but this is leading into one of the topics that you'd like to talk about, Karen, which is how to make content interesting, when frankly, t can get boring. Because you're using a formula, because you have your like, problem statement and then you have your empathy statement and then you have your three or six things, or whatever, that helps solve the problem. So, like, how do you make content interesting when in a lot of ways, it can just be like, another formulaic blog?
Karen 17:36
Right. I do want to tack on one thing at the end of the last section. What's important to remember is that, even if you're following that formula, what you are doing when you are following that formula is you're writing about something specifically, you're not being general. And because you're doing that, and because you're focusing on educating, you really are optimizing for on-page SEO, because onpage SEO is based on how knowledgeable you are about a topic and how well you talk about it. And so, when you're defining things, and when you're talking about the challenges, and when you're explaining the solutions, you're automatically building in a lot of those keywords without coming across as keyword stuffing. So, now, how do you tell something that's not boring? And that's hard because I was doing a lot of research before this podcast, and I love analogies, in case you hadn't noticed. They are a really great way of explaining something to someone. The problem is, when you're trying to rank for SEO, using analogies can get in the way because if I were to use a cheese and baseball bat analogy when talking about securing enterprise software, Google would pretty much go, "What the fuck?" So, telling the story has to incorporate understanding the persona, and you can go one of two ways, I think. I have one client and I actually enjoy writing for them a lot because they really do take a very narrative kind of writerly, creative approach. And it's like, put yourself in the customer's shoes. What is their problem? Talk about the problem. So, we're gonna move away from cheese and baseball bats. I'm trying to think of something really quick.
Gianna 19:29
Why not make it a cyber example?
Maria 19:30
Yeah, I was just gonna say let's put it into a like, real-life cybersecurity kind of example.
Karen 19:35
Yeah, I'm trying to think of one that isn't involved with a client that I have.
Gianna 19:39
Why don't you use Votiro? Do you want to use my company?
Karen 19:41
Gianna 19:43
Nice, free consulting.
Karen 19:45
Free consulting right there. Okay, so Votiro does email protection.
Gianna 19:51
Well, okay. Hi everybody, all of us security listeners, Votiro does content design reconstruction. So, I'd say it protects the data in motion by proactively removing malware before it gets to its end destination.
Karen 20:06
Right, right, right. I remember that now. Sometimes clients get mad and are like, "How come you can't remember everything?" Like, I don't know. There's like, a bunch of them.
Gianna 20:13
No, I'm not mad.
Karen 20:14
I had one person once tell me, "Why can't you remember everything?" I'm like, "Dude, do you know how many different conversations with different technology companies I have every day?" Okay, so Votiro does content disarm and reconstruction. Gianna is like, "Yes, that is what we do." Okay. So, a really good example of writing a narrative that also hits SEO buttons would be okay, you just received a call from your IT department that someone detected malware, or that they got a malware alert. And it's on a user device, and you don't know how it got there, and you're suspecting that it's phishing, but it's late on Friday and really, everybody just wants to go home.
Maria 20:59
Wow, hitting on so many emotions right there and literally just talking straight to the person's heart.
Karen 21:06
And yet, at the same time, did we get keywords in that Google would enjoy? Oh, but we did. So, it depends on how your branding is. If your branding is super corporate, then you would say, "Malware spreads by PDFs embedded in emails when people click on them."
Gianna 21:25
Excuse me, Karen, are you giving my company that voice? That's rude.
Karen 21:29
Hey, I probably wrote that, so I'm giving myself that voice! If you're taking more of a storytelling approach, because you want to be something that's more of like, the hip and cool technology, you can write it in the other voice. So, you can actually get storytelling in, if you're thinking at it from the approach of, "I'm in the shoes of the person, this is the problem that they have in their daily job, and here's how we solve that for them."
Maria 22:02
Yeah, I love that analogy that works so well.
Gianna 22:05
And now we'd like to take a moment to thank our sponsors and producers Hacker Valley Media. Chris Cochran and Ron Eddings run an amazing studio here, which produces not only the Breaking Through in Cybersecurity Marketing podcast, but a bunch of other shows that you're going to want to listen to as well. So, all these shows plus more and then, on top of that, probably even more coming soon, are available to look at, listen to, and sponsor at HackerValley.com. Make sure you go over there and say, "Hey, Gianna, and Maria said I should come check out your website, listen to your shows, and sponsor a podcast or two."
Maria 22:46
I'd like to ask you: What are your top 10 marketing buzzwords to avoid on content?
Karen 22:53
I totally apologize to any current clients. This is not directed at you, it's directed at the industry. Number one is "frictionless."
Gianna 23:01
But things can be frictionless when they don't have friction. Oh, you're making such a face right now.
Karen 23:07
I'm making such a face right now. You know why? So, let me explain why. Technically, even physically, in the real world, like actual mathematical physics, there is nothing that is "frictionless."
Maria 23:23
Unless it's air, and even air doesn't always apply.
Karen 23:26
Right? So, to me, it's a term that we use, that is a waste of real estate. Less user touches, less end user interactions, faster access to something. All of those are more purposeful terms.
Gianna 23:46
Hmmm. You're being specific and not general, right?
Maria 23:50
Okay. Number two, tell us as many as you can. In five minutes.
Karen 23:53
Number two, five minutes. In five minutes, I can do that. So, I hate frictionless. I'm not a big fan of seamless, again, it goes back to the same thing, like what do you mean by that?
Gianna 24:04
It's my lunch delivery, seamless.
Karen 24:07
And I think again, part of the problem with a lot of these terms is people haven't really thought about what they mean by the term and so, it makes them meaningless.
Maria 24:20
Love it. Number three.
Karen 24:22
Okay, we're all just going to admit, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are really nothing more than analytics. It's your algorithm and your data set.
Gianna 24:33
We used to say— I worked at a company called Bandura and my boss there would always say, "It's just math."
Karen 24:41
That's all it is. It's just math.
Gianna 24:45
Can I push back on you a little bit, Karen, because a lot of cybersecurity companies, their technology is based on AI and ML, and that's a key feature that they're trying to say that there's a benefit from that, specifically. So, what do you do in those situations? Or like, what do you think about that?
Karen 25:04
I think it goes back to being purposeful. What does it do that's special? Everybody is saying that they have AI and ML. What makes yours cooler? What makes yours better? Like, why does somebody want to choose your mathematical algorithm over somebody else's mathematical algorithm? Because they're all mathematical algorithms, and nobody knows what's inside, because they're all proprietary. So, it again, becomes a term that has no real meaning. I mean, I understand that the data breach investigations report and the cost of a data breach report, I'll say, "You save money when you use automated solutions to help catch vulnerabilities and detect and investigate and respond," and I'm there with that. I get it, we need them. But just saying it because everybody else has it, I'm gonna go back to my mom, my Italian New York mom, "If everybody jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it
too?" I mean, linguistically, that's all it is. It's like, all the cool kids are saying it, so we have to, too.
Maria 26:08
Yeah, thanks to Google. Yes.
Gianna 26:11
Any other terms that you hate?
Karen 26:14
Operational costs.
Maria 26:16
It doesn't take long for you to answer. Okay, elaborate.
Karen 26:21
I have used "operational costs," because everybody hates audit. So, if I'm talking about audit all the time, okay, everybody wants to reduce operational costs and I get it. Operational costs could mean a multitude of things. It could mean time someone spends doing things that aren't actually related to their job function. It could be time spent looking up documentation for an audit. What specifically is the operational cost that you're saving? It could be time sending emails to follow up on things.
Karen 26:52
That's fair.
Maria 26:53
Or your cable bill. It's that broad, and I get why you would want it to be more specific.
Gianna 26:59
Or your rent for your she shed.
Karen 27:01
I want my she shed, I've wanted my she shed since 2020.
Maria 27:05
We have time for one more buzzword. Let's see here.
Karen 27:08
Maria 27:09
Karen 27:10
What do you mean when you say you give "actionable" insights?
Maria 27:16
For me, it's like, I'm gonna give you three things that you can apply today and solve your problem, or at least get you closer to solving your problem like, specific and not marketing fluff.
Karen 27:27
And I think that's, again, we say, "You'll have more actionable insights." Okay, what exactly is it? Is it that the actionable insight is giving directions to how to secure something? Is it just telling you, "Okay, you have five vulnerabilities," and now you have to do something with them? And I think, again, so I have to give a shout out here— I know she's never gonna hear this, I don't even know where she lives anymore, but my sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Prouty, shout out to Mrs. Prouty for this, always made us learn and not use what she called, "weak words." And these were things like, good and bad because they are vague. They can have a multitude of meanings depending on who you are. And so, apparently as early as sixth grade, I didn't like vague words, probably because I didn't get as good a grade and I was a high achiever, and in case you all hadn't noticed Karen's a little bit of a type A personality, a little
bit of a perfectionist. She really taught me the importance of using precise language. I think this is why product marketers bring so much value to cybersecurity companies, because they help you find that precise language.
Gianna 28:45
In the case of actionable, I think— Don't laugh, I was gonna say something somewhat smart.
Karen 28:54
I was waiting for her to say, "I don't like that you don't like actionable, Karen." No, go ahead. Yeah.
Maria 29:02
I was gonna say everyone listening to this episode today, literally, after the episode is over. Everyone's gonna go onto your website. Ctrl F actionable, Ctrl F frictionless.
Gianna 29:16
It's funny that you hate actionable, because I'm pretty sure "actionable" rose out of the fact that a lot of cybersecurity vendors, when we're giving information and data to our customers, right? Like specifically in like the sock environment, right? Like, "Hey, Red Alert. Red alert, Red alert, Red alert, Red alert." Okay, what do I do with that alert? Now I have to process it and now I have to prioritize it, and I have to think about it. And now, I have to work with my team to solve it. I think actionable arose to say something like you were saying, Karen, that, "Yes, you can take action on this, you can do something with this insight," that this is actually something that has like, a tangible step to it. But since you said actionable was one of your hated words, I actually agree with you because when you do see actionable now, in the lexicon of 1,000 vendors' websites and data, like what does it mean? I don't know, could be that you still have to think and process and do something, could be that it's a click of button, which I've seen in a lot of vendors now like, "click a button to solve it," like, for example, in remediation
companies, so that's really interesting.
Karen 30:21
And I think it all goes back to the idea that you need to educate people coming into your website through visual and written texts. If you're not using precise language, you haven't educated them. Go back to a thesis statement. In theory, a thesis statement should be something that's clear. But if the person you're talking to doesn't have the same understanding of what that term means, then you're not appropriately educating them.
Maria 30:55
You're just fluffing them with marketing. So, Karen, Gianna is doing the fluffing gesture. It's more like stoning is what you're doing now.
Karen 31:09
This would be a fluffing gesture. It looks like she's throwing things to stoning.
Gianna 31:15
I'm doing lightning bolts from my hands.
Maria 31:19
All right. So, Karen, we covered your top marketing buzzwords, tell us about your favorite cybersecurity publications that you trust for news and information.
Karen 31:31
Obviously, Dark Reading. I do a lot of compliance, so I tend to like Security Mag. Help Net has some good things, even if there's some vendor stuff on there.
Maria 31:41
Aw man, we just did Help Net. Let's edit this out, please. No, I'm kidding.
Karen 31:49
There's nothing wrong with vendor stuff, as long as it has value. I am a huge fan of doing research, so I tend to focus more on things that have numbers and statistics. I'm gonna give a shout out— And this is a product, and I know it's a product, but Feedly's cybersecurity feeds are phenomenal. Like, I am in love with them. They have an enterprise cybersecurity product, sorry, but it's really, really worthwhile, because it brings in all the news from all the places, and I've found so much stuff in there that I wouldn't have seen otherwise. So, it's literally where I go every day. I check my Feedly feed, I look for, and I've got it segmented out by like regulatory compliance. I'm just saying like, I am in love.
Maria 32:36
And this is great. You know why this is great? Because I feel like a great part of you is a little bit our ICP for cybersecurity marketers, even though you are marketer yourself. So, it could very well be that a lot of our buyers are also on Feedly doing the same exact thing. So, this is great.
Karen 32:54
And here's the thing, a lot of it is intended for threat intelligence, but if you're in marketing, you need to know what's going on all the time, especially for PR, because if you want to send out good quotes and put out good thought leadership, you need to know what's happening in the industry. So, this is another place where marketing and the actual security team, every cybersecurity company has a security team, at least hopefully, in theory. We're gonna say they all do because if you're not a secure security vendor, that's a bigger issue and you don't really need marketing quite as much.
Gianna 33:31
I can't handle that problem, I'm not going to think about it.
Karen 33:36
And it's a place where if they need it, and you can use it, there's a good budgetary overlap and you can split it.
Gianna 33:44
So, actually, the marketer who runs in launched this product, like, who owned the launch of the Feedly cybersecurity threat intelligence feed is in our group, Sarah. So, Sarah, I don't know if you're listening, but shout out, you have fans here and you have fans probably everywhere for your guys’ awesome threat intelligence feed, and we'll put a link to that in the show notes.
Maria 34:09
Awesome. Okay, do we have time for one more question. Or, one more question and our favorite bonus last question of each episode, right?
Gianna 34:19
Yeah. Should we do it as a game this time, or you think we just want to flat ask?
Karen 34:22
Ooh, let's do a game. I'm not bored with you, but like bored at life! I'm bored and tired, and like, not with you, just life in general.
Gianna 34:34
It's okay, so, I'm so glad that the world gets to hear about this. Okay, Maria, you can go.
Maria 34:41
I don't know if I want to ask this question anymore. Karen, how do you earn respect in cybersecurity as a woman and a marketer who knows her shit?
Karen 34:54
Lord have mercy. And it's not even just as a woman, and as a marketer, it's as a freelancer.
Maria 35:04
Another layer of conflict for you, right?
Karen 35:05
Yeah, like, for the records everyone. This is like my big thing. I have to point this out. Just because someone is a freelancer does not mean they can't have a real job.
Maria 35:16
Oh, yeah. I mean, that's true. you know, how
Karen 35:17
Do you know how many people treat freelancers like it's not a real job? All the time. Oh, all the time.
Maria 35:25
That's bad. Let's change that. We're gonna change that with this episode right here, right now.
Gianna 35:29
That's right. Now it's fixed. Thank you, Maria.
Karen 35:33
It's hard. And I think a lot of it is for me, I get really assertive, and then people say, "Oh, well, we don't like you because you're aggressive." And I'm like, "Then hire a different freelancer." I've actually had clients where they're like, "Well, blah, blah, blah, blah." And I'm like, "Oh, you don't know." And then I'll go through it and be like, "This is the problem. This is the problem. This is it," and they're like, "Oh, I didn't know that." Like, oh, yeah, here's the resource, here's a resource, here's a resource, and they're like, "Oh. Oh, you really do know what you're talking about." Like, yeah.
Gianna 36:09
So, that's awesome, but in a way, also, you do have to prove yourself, it sounds like. Constantly.
Karen 36:14
Every single time. There's two layers when you're doing contract work, too. You have to prove that you're good at what you do, because you're a new relationship as a business. And I think cybersecurity companies have the same thing because technically, you're a contractor, right? So, you have to prove to customers that you're valuable to them. And two, you have to prove that you actually know what you're talking about, on both a technical and every other thing, especially because I don't have the technical background. So, you have to prove that you understand the technical enough, even if you don't code. And in cybersecurity as a woman, who's also a contractor, it's like three layers of uphill battle because I don't want to code. I have tried coding. I do not like coding. Coding is not where I want to live.
Gianna 37:03
We don't like seamless, we don't like coding, we don't like lots of things on this episode.
Karen 37:08
It's really just not my thing, and I am really impressed by all the people who can do it and enjoy doing it. But Lord, I've tried it, I did some TryHackMe, which was great, because I got to learn a bunch of stuff. So, if you want to get a little amped up and just get a sense of what it's like to do red teaming, or blue teaming, TryHackMe is really great, and they have a lot of free resources. So, shout out to TryHackMe. And that will give you a lot of insight into what the technical buyer wants, again, super great, but I don't want to do it. Like, I want to write. That's what I'm good at. I mean, I've been published in a bunch of different places. I have books out. I know I'm a good writer. It's what I like doing. I don't want to code, but I have to make sure people don't treat me like I'm stupid because I don't do the technical job. Which goes along with the marketing because they think marketing is fluff. I've literally had people say, "Well,
we just need you to put the marketing fluff in this document."
Maria 38:02
Oh, my goodness. Oh, yeah.
Gianna 38:05
Okay, well, you're here among friends, Karen, and we know that you're not a marketing fluff person at all. And everybody on this podcast will know that, too, because fluff is your enemy.
Karen 38:14
It is. For a knitter who loves fiber and all the soft fuzzy things, in words, I am not about fluff.
Gianna 38:24
So, let's go into, I think, our game before we can tell people where to find you. So, everybody, in the past on previous episodes, we have asked our audience members a question: If you were not doingwhat you're doing now, what would you be doing? This time, me and Maria are gonna guess, Karen,what would be your alternative career and at the end, you'll let us know whether or not one of us was right or not, and then you could tell us what the right answer is. So, it can't be a lawyer because you were a lawyer, can't be a marketer, and can't be a writer. Who wants to go first? Maria, do you want to go first? Or, do you want me to go first?
Maria 39:03
I'm gonna go first. And no, it's not going to be a cheese beater. Well, so, gosh, would you actually have been in hairdressing? I know this sounds crazy. No, I'm totally off the mark, huh?
Karen 39:20
I have no creative abilities like that whatsoever, which is kind of a, I guess, that's like telling Gianna that I got my Wordle in three when she knows my first starting word, but—
Maria 39:30
I don't know, there's definitely an artsy side to you. There's obviously a creator side to you because youare a writer and I just immediately thought, like, "Oh, okay. Could be?" But okay, I'm completely off. Gianna, you go.
Gianna 39:44
Alright, I have a guess. I feel like you, Karen, could like, lead a group of people into war, or not a war but like, you could be the head of something with like, a lot of passion for something. So maybe, you'd be like a prophet? Or, a General?
Maria 40:05
Oh, wow.
Gianna 40:06
Well, did either of us get it right?
Karen 40:09
Honestly, you're probably going to hate this answer. If money wasn't an option, I would go back to teaching.
Gianna 40:18
But that doesn't count though, because you were a teacher. So, it can't be something that you were, right?
Karen 40:23
Well, why not? If I left because I wasn't getting paid well, I mean, that really was my passion. Like, that was my passion. I loved it. I probably miss it every day. Yeah, every day. I wake up days thinking how much I missed teaching. Shout out to Black Girls in Cyber, they're letting me be a mentor this session, and I was super excited and my mentee is amazing. If Janine ever hears this: Hi, Janine! She's out in Spain. And that's really helping me feel sort of that soul void. I do a lot of informal mentoring, too, because I really miss it. Now, if I had the talent, I would be a musician because— Oh, nobody can see. I was gonna bring over my violin I have. Like, I can see you guys, but this is just a podcast. I have a green electric violin, and I've been a musician since I was eight. And that's really my other passion. Like, I don't get to do it as much as I'd like, because I'm busy working. But another shout out because I'm kind of excited. I'm actually working with Tricia Kicks SaaS. Tricia Howard. Is that her last name? Yes, Tricia Howard. And we're going to be doing a video for my website coming out sometime in q2.
And her boyfriend, Greg, is writing special music and we're going to include my violin. Yeah, as a matter of fact, and this will lead into the final stuff. That's actually where my business name came from. So, my business is Allegro Solutions, and I had been having my own business since 2004 because when I was an auditor, I was also a contract auditor. And when I came up with the name of my company, I wanted it to be something that if I ever left audit, which apparently, I clearly did, would kind of showcase my personality and be able to be a little flexible without having to start a new LLC. And so, I chose Allegro Solutions. And my original logo was a mirror version of a G cleft for the s. And then, when I revamped my logo in 2020, I actually chose the current one because it looks like a dal segno. So, it looked like a musical sign.
Maria 41:45
That's awesome.
Gianna 42:30
We're gonna link to that in the show notes for sure. And Karen, can you bring your violin over here and play like for a little bit? And maybe we can have Sam like, mix it into the outro? Is that crazy?
Maria 42:43
Not crazy. No.
Karen 42:44
I don't have my electric one today, but I can bring out my acoustic though. She's beautiful. I love her. She's new to me. I got her last year around this time because it showed up in my Facebook memories. Her name is Evelyn, you always name your Instagram.
Maria 42:57
I love how you have a name for it. Yeah, bring it. Play something for us.
Gianna 43:01
You know, that must be why I'm so bad at music. I never knew my French horn, that must be why I'm bad.
Maria 43:07
I don't play. We're trying to get Selma into it. She has a violin she's playing. It's cool. But no, I still have faith in my Hollywood career, though. It's going to happen.
Gianna 43:17
Yeah, I have faith, too, but you're living in the incorrect state, I think I think you do have to move for an acting career.
Maria 43:27
Could you imagine? Breaking through into Hollywood, all the way from Connecticut?
Gianna 43:33
Via zoom.
Karen 43:36
But just so you ladies can see here? This is my electric.
Maria 43:40
Woah, that's pretty kick ass, we need a picture of that.
Gianna 43:44
Yeah, you have to send us a picture, Karen, and we'll put it in the show notes.
Karen 43:47
I bought her because she has silent practice. So, you can put headphones on and nobody has to hear me, so it doesn't scare the dogs. I actually stopped playing for about 10 years because the dog we used to have was afraid of the instrument. Also, because green is clearly my signature color. I got myself a green shoulder rest. Shout out to Ever Rest for any of those listening who either play an instrument, or have a kid who wants something that's cool. I'm like, just plugging all my favorite vendors.
Gianna 44:19
Are you sponsored, Karen? Nope.
Karen 44:21
Nope, I just like sharing cool things.
Maria 44:24
Your kind soul, Karen.
Karen 44:25
Also, for anybody who's listening while I'm finishing this part up here. If you have not ever heard of Lindsey Stirling, she is an electric violinist who does some like, super amazing, nerdy music. Her Pokémon theme is one of my all-time favorites.
Gianna 44:40
We'll be sure to link to her in the show notes.
Karen 44:42
Yeah, she's awesome. All right.
Maria 44:46
Oh, I love it.
Gianna 45:08
That was amazing. I have chills. Oh my god, that was so good.
Karen 45:13
And I'm actually in our local orchestra, where I play second violin.
Maria 45:17
Right, I did see that. And I actually had it on our show notes to ask you about it.
Karen 45:21
And I am on the executive board there. So, I'm currently working on their website is a volunteer project.
Maria 45:27
Love it. That's amazing. Karen, thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you for bringing art into cyber and for bringing wisdom into content marketing, and for allowing us to talk to you and uncover your amazing story. It's been an amazing chat.
Karen 45:47
Thank you so much. I had such a good time. You guys are always some of my favorite people. I love y'all. Shout out to the Cybersecurity Marketing Society. I mean, that doesn't count as a plug because we're on it.
Gianna 45:59
That's right. Well, I mean, if any of you do want to join the Cybersecurity Marketing Society, visit the website at CybersecurityMarketingSociety.com, and click on "Apply to Join" and you'll be joining us, plus Karen, and we all have a really good time in there. Karen, where can people contact you if they want to either learn more about your content marketing services, or about your violin playing services?
Karen 46:25
I do not offer violin playing services. Nobody would want me. I'm only like, mediocre, but that's I don't get to rehearse a lot, or so I like to think. You can find me at AllegroSolutionsLLC.com. Only because AllegroSolutions.com was taken. I'm on Twitter, @GeekMomK. Because I also write for Geek moms, so I'm gonna give a quick plug. I have writing on Geek Mom, which is Geek Mom Blog, GeekMom.com. And you can find me on LinkedIn, Geeky Karen. I have a brand. I'm a big nerd.
Maria 46:59
I love it. Thank you, Karen, thank you so much.
Karen 47:02
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Maria 47:04
Yeah, see you all on the next episode. Don't forget to subscribe and like so that you can get notified for every new episode that comes out, and make sure you share with your friends and colleagues in cybersecurity marketing.
Gianna 47:17
And if you want to be on the show, send an email to Podcasts@HackerValley.com, or visit
CybersecurityMarketingSociety.com/Podcast. See y'all next time.

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