Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to convey a message. Mentors, teachers, and public speakers draw from their personal experiences to connect with their audience. A story, when performed with confidence and skill, can improve training by making tasks relatable and teachable for the audience. Bad storytelling and misrepresented messages can make the news seem more important than the messenger. This can lead to a loss of credibility for the message.
This article doesn’t necessarily define storytelling as telling a story or creating fiction. To illustrate how to create a logical flow of tasks to accomplish a job, the term storytelling is used. A lousy storyteller might say that you must protect classified information, or else you will be fired. A skilled storyteller will communicate the tasks of using, storing, and dismantling classified information throughout its lifecycle in an organized manner. They can do this with such relevance that it is easy to apply within the company culture.
The Story Setting
A speaker who shares their message with peers or has similar skills sets or abilities gains credibility almost immediately. It is often unnecessary to start a relationship with someone who has the same profession or has the same interests. As they share similar interests, everyone already has something in common. This can happen in a club or professional organization where everyone shares a standard skill set or hobby.
A speaker who addresses topics to a diverse audience may have difficulty connecting with their audience. A college teacher who teaches at night may have a large audience that includes skilled workers from different disciplines. The only thing they share is their textbook. These situations require the speaker to rely on their knowledge and experience in order to make the helpful material or instructable. This speaker would be foolish to attempt to engage in a topic that they don’t know anything about. The first time they misuse anecdotes, they will lose their credibility.
Storytelling to NISPOM
A Facility Security Officer (FSO), in addition to supporting a shared corporate culture, can have trouble communicating a message about protection to others who use classified information for a specific purpose. The FSO may be an expert in NISPOM, but the engineer or practitioner can help you understand how to use the classified information. What can an FSO do? How can they create common ground and then use that ground to develop training anecdotes?
I will tell you a personal story. I was invited to speak at an NCMS chapter event a few years back. While I was interested in program protection, I concentrated on the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual’s (NISPOM) requirements. The briefing charts that I created were based on NISPOM requirements. I used these requirements to show the application and necessity of program protection planning. I thought my presentation was good, but I wanted to confirm with a colleague.
Although his assessment was accurate, it wasn’t what I expected to hear. He explained to me that my message was not correct, and I ran the risk of losing my audience. Inadvertently, I was claiming myself to be a NISPOM expert. Instead, I should have been showcasing my program-protection experience. He correctly pointed out that there would be many NISPOM experts in the room that could debate any topic interpretation of the NISPOM to my detriment. He explained that while the NISPOM might be our common ground but that most of my presentation should focus on program protection and get buy-in on NISPOM interpretation; he also said that the NISPOM could not be our only option. I was able to listen, and it resulted in an excellent presentation and many questions and answers.
FSOs are experts in NISPOM and can apply the classification management guidance at cleared contractor facilities. FSOs are required by cleared contractor facilities to designate a competent person to perform the duties. This could be understood as the requirement to select an employee to fulfill the additional responsibilities of an FSO. This can also be understood as the requirement for another employee to perform full-time duties as an FSO.
FSOs should be able to establish credibility by applying NISPOM guidance at the defense contractor facility. This is the primary purpose of FSOs. The FSO can be an expert in weapon system development if the FSO is given to an engineer, executive, or other professional. The FSO may be an expert in weapon system development and can weave security information into the system. It would be a mistake not to highlight the system engineer’s expertise to explain the importance of applying security tasks to protect classified information. It is essential to communicate the security message and discuss details such as cost, performance, schedule, and other factors. Expertise in security and weapon systems development and the ability to tell the story clearly using technical language and engineer talk will assist fellow weapon system designers in better-applying security to protect classified or export-controlled information.
A non-technical FSO trying to teach an engineer the details of the difficult task of creating software would be foolish. This could cause a loss of credibility, as terms may be misused or charges might be communicated in a way that insults the professional. The FSO can conduct security training and security tasks using the reference that they are experts in NISPOM guidance, and engineers are experts in weapon systems and design. They can work together to develop a security program that protects classified information.
The FSO can be trusted as a security expert in the second scenario and tell compelling stories by sharing the experience of working in a facility that is cleared for defense contractors and the core culture. FSOs are not allowed to talk about areas that they don’t know much about if the audience includes engineers and scientists. Unfortunately, this could allow the audience to debate the FSO’s understanding of the weapon system beyond the security discussion.
To make the security message easily understandable to employees cleared, it should be communicated using storytelling. Storytelling simply refers to finding common ground and using it to create a culture or train employees in a relatable way.