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Illustration by iStock; Security Management

Building Your Personal Brand Through ASIS Certification and Networking

Personal branding is becoming increasingly vital to success as a CSO. The 2022 CSO Center Leadership Series covered this topic in a wide-ranging manner with the help of several subject matter experts. By utilizing the skills and methods covered in this three-part series, CSOs can increase their ability to educate and influence business partners and stakeholders they rely on to help reach their goals.

This series reinforced the concept that trust is the key to being a successful CSO. I must continuously cultivate my brand to demonstrate that I am a trustworthy person who has the experience and expertise to guide my company through a maze of security risks. This is achieved by building a system that consistently communicates my values, skills, and personality.

A key takeaway from the series is the importance of validating your brand perception through feedback. Am I coming across in the way I believe I am?

Speakers in the series provided several examples of how to do this. 360 surveys are a great way to solicit feedback from your peers, direct reports, and leadership. Aside from a full-blown 360, you can solicit feedback from these groups by simply asking five people to describe you in three words. Are these descriptors consistent with your personal brand? If not, what adjustments do you need to make to change those perceptions?

Like many security professionals, I began my career in the public sector. While that experience has provided real-world experience in identifying and mitigating threats, it does little to establish my value as a business partner. The corporate culture can be quite foreign to someone coming from the public sector. They operate at a different pace and have different processes and norms. I had to learn the culture and operate under their rules of engagement.

Shortly after transitioning to my new role, I was assigned a project to roll out an enterprise-wide visitor management system. My VP asked for a timeline, and I told him I could complete the project in 90 days. I was thinking like someone in a paramilitary organization, charging full speed ahead. I quickly learned that the private sector moves at a slower, more deliberate place. As a result of this exercise, change manager became part of my brand. I had to learn about taking care of the people and stakeholders who would be affected by these changes and communicate the “why” of the change in their own language. Through deliberate branding, I demonstrated my business acumen and understanding of the culture and its expectations.

Two essential pieces of my personal brand are my Certified Protection Professional (CPP) credential and my membership in the ASIS CSO Center for Leadership Development.

The CPP is the industry standard for demonstrating an in-depth knowledge of security principles and practices. When I am asked about those letters behind my name, simply saying that I am board-certified in security management gives me immediate credibility. While the CPP demonstrates my expertise in various domains of security, it also requires an understanding of business principles and practices. As a CPP, I am held in higher regard by leadership than my peers who have not earned the credential. 

My company is committed to innovation. They are constantly looking to improve and streamline operations in all areas of the business. A vital piece of my brand is that of an innovative leader, aligned with company goals and values. My involvement in the CSO Center demonstrates the pride I take in my profession and my dedication to staying on the cutting edge of security.

I have found the networking opportunities within the CSO Center to be another way to enhance my brand. When I was recently asked to develop a measures and metrics program to demonstrate the value of my organization’s security function, a simple LinkedIn post resulted in a wealth of information. Security leaders from around the world generously took the time to share their programs with me. With this information, I was able to build a presentation built upon proven and innovative security programs from a wide range of industries, adapted to our specific needs. My ability to access the knowledge of top security professionals has become part of my brand. I am now regularly asked to reach out to my network for best practices and benchmarking. My CSO Center colleagues never fail to impress me with their expertise and generosity.

The CSO role has evolved from the retired cop or soldier in charge of guns, gates, and guards to that of a trusted business partner and advisor. I must continue to refine my brand to align with updated expectations.

Scott Wolford, CPP, is the security manager, Grandview Yard, for Nationwide Insurance Company, and a member of the ASIS CSO Center for Leadership Development.