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It is no secret the President Elect Trump is skeptical of the Intelligence Community (IC). He has openly questioned Russia/US election “hacking” on many occasions. This week he tweeted:
Trump has also shunned the longstanding Presidential Daily Intelligence Brief. The Washington Post wrote about it here: “Trump turning away intelligence briefers since election win.”
President Trump doesn’t have a full understanding of intelligence tradecraft, how organizations are compromised, or the incident response process. Just to be clear, I have no partisan or hyperbolic intentions with these statements. First, he tweets about catching the “hackers in the act.”
Second, Trump quotes Assange and talks about the DNC being so careless. He doesn’t understand that “careless” is the status quo, regardless if you are a political organization or a Fortune 500 company. He also minimizes the threat from teenager “hackers.” During the Presidential Debates, Trump alluded to 400 pound hackers sitting in their beds.
It can be easy for those of us in the cyber security and intelligence communities to scoff at Trump’s perspective of these issues. The reality is that over the next four years, Trump is going to be a challenging consumer of intelligence products. To have any chance of successfully communicating with Trump, the IC is going to have to tailor their products to this very difficult intelligence consumer.
There are lessons that we can apply to our own organizations. When it comes to technology and cyber security, Trump isn’t that different than most of your key executives. They aren’t technologists; they aren’t practitioners and they certainly don’t understand things that we know to be true. With this in mind, I want to focus on six ways to effectively communicate and tailor intelligence to uninformed and/or difficult executive audiences.
Challenging intelligence consumers aren’t going away, so you must develop a strategy to make the best of the situation. Shifting an intelligence consumer from uninformed or adversarial position to a champion can be successful. I’d love to hear your ideas for helping this shift be successful.