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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.

As with all organizational efforts, your awareness program has to demonstrate that it returns clear business value. You have to show that your program is synergistic to all other critical organizational efforts, and supports those efforts.

Cater to executive personal interests
While it is important to address business concerns, you cannot forget that the executives are people with their own interests. They are concerned about their personal safety, as well as the safety of their home and family. You have to consider that they are older and likely wealthier than the general population. That means that they generally have newer technologies, older children, more personal computers, travel more frequently, among other stereotypical characteristics.

You need to ensure that the executives find personal value in the program that you provide them. The hope is that the executives will realize the personal value that they derive from the program, and be altruistic enough to believe that the general population can also use similar information.

Ask what they want to know
While it is great to do your own research, the most fruitful form of research is simply to ask what security concerns the executives have. In the ideal world, you will get this exposure. However depending upon the size of the organization, as well as the perceived importance of your efforts, your access might be limited. If this is the case, look to the executives' staff to try to find out what concerns they might have.

This actually has two distinct effects. First is that you can better tailor the programs to the specific desires of the targeted population. More important is that a few people might feel that they contributed to the creation of the program. When you either get an executive or their staff to have a sense of ownership, they are more likely to convince others to participate in the program. Sometimes, it is even more beneficial to have influential staff members rather than the executives themselves provide the input, as they have direct influence on the executives' daily schedules.

Use communication means appropriate to the executives
Even if you have the right messages, you need to make sure that you use the appropriate communications tools. The typical posters, newsletters and videos will not usually suffice. We have found in dealing with dozens of organizations that each organization has its own executive communications channels. Before beginning to create an awareness program, you need to learn which of those communications channels is the most effective for your needs.

Stick to three simple topics
Odds are pretty good that you will identify several topics that would all be valid to include in your initial awareness program. We recommend that stick to three topics of focus that are simple to address and reinforce. Three topics provide adequate breadth to give executives a feel of what an awareness program can do. They also allow you to potentially choose topics from three key areas; achieving business goals, appealing to personal interests, and addressing current events.

 

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