What’s “The Story”?

When I’m talking to people about the best way to communicate with senior management, I always recommend having a “story”. The idea behind the story is simply based on having an elevator pitch, but taken a step further to be applicable to more than just that 30 second “What’s happening in cyber security?” conversation. Executives are busy and we need to be able to quickly and concisely communicate what’s important right now.

You’ve all seen the executive summary; a brief section at the beginning of a white paper or report. The whole point to the executive summary is that if you only have time to read the key takeaways of the report, read this. The idea of the “story” is the same; this is the most important message to be communicated right now. This isn’t easy to do on the spur of the moment and so I recommend having something prepared. Having a “story”, rather than just an elevator pitch, gives you the flexibility to use 30 seconds, or 15 minutes and still coherently get your message across. We’ve all been in the situation where we end up being with a senior executive and they ask how things are going. What’s your normal response? Is it something similar to; “Pretty good, really busy.”? Hopefully that manager isn’t only interested in hearing that you’re busy. Sure, sometimes it’s just a case of making small talk, but you shouldn’t pass up on these opportunities to be informative.

Rather than giving them a list of tasks or projects you’re working on, my recommendation is to inform them of a current cyber security event. By taking a current event and relating that to your company you accomplish a few things; one is that you make it more real. If you can’t make it relatable to non-security people it goes over their head (we’ve all been in the situation where the person across from us goes glassy-eyed as soon as we start talking about what we do). The second thing this accomplishes is to show that you are a source of valuable information and that they can come to you when they have questions. Lastly, you also show them that not only do you understand security but you understand how it relates to the business. How great would it be to have management come to you to ask about cyber security rather than you always having to go to them?

To help you out, I’m in the process of creating a regular newsletter that will be focused solely on providing you with a story. I don’t yet know what the frequency will be to start (I’m hoping to get to a weekly one) but I’ll occasionally send you a story that you can then use to help make discussions with senior management easier and more effective. Sign up using the form at the bottom of the page.

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