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6 steps to win executive support for security awareness programs

Ira Winkler and Samantha Manke | July 22, 2014
Obtaining C-Level support for security awareness programs can be tough, so Ira Winkler and Samantha Manke share a handful of tips for appealing to the executives in your organisation.

In our article, "The 7 Elements of a successful awareness program," we identified the first and most critical element was obtaining C-level support. Such support is critical for the success of just about any organizational effort. Their support brings organizational buy-in and authority for your efforts. You can get other departments to support your efforts. While you will still meet some resistance, it is easier to overcome or bypass. Most importantly, you get more funding to put together a respectable awareness program.

However, getting that support can be tricky, if not outright difficult. Until there is a major failing, executives rarely see the tangible benefit of funding an adequate program. That being said, you need to overcome this hurdle as it can really increase the effectiveness of all awareness and other security efforts.

When Samantha was tasked with creating her first awareness program, it became quickly obvious that she did not have sufficient resources to create an adequate program for her Fortune 500 company. She quickly realized that if she wanted more budget, she had to get support from the executive managers.

With that in mind, she took a gamble and focused her initial resources and created a program specifically targeting the executives. When the executives perceived that the awareness program had direct benefit to them in both their business and personal lives, the gamble paid off, and they allocated more funding for the overall awareness program.

The lessons learned from her experience can potentially recreate the increase in funding. However, what is most notable is that those methods will increase the perceived value if an awareness program for any population within an organization.

Recognize that you have distinct cultures in your organization
Most awareness programs are unfortunately designed that all people get the same training/information. Clearly, there are many unique distinct cultures inside an organization, and they all need their own awareness program. While this subject will be covered in a future article, what is important to recognize here is that the C-level executives are one of the distinct cultures that you have to target.

Executives have concerns that are unique to their job functions. They also have preferred ways of receiving information. Therefore have to consider that you cannot use the same materials that you intend to use for the general population. You need to create a unique program.

Address strategic concerns
Before you choose the topics you want your executive awareness program to address, you need to learn about the business. You need to understand the top concerns of the executives. You need to make sure that your program addresses those concerns. You should relate all materials to those concerns as much as possible.


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