How cyber companies can better connect with their audience 

Expert Karissa Breen explains why ‘human messaging’ is so critical for cyber companies.  

With the growing threat of cyberattacks affecting not just corporates but everyday Australians, cyber companies need to build trust with their audiences. We speak to Karissa Breen, Founder and CEO at KBI, about building trust as a startup, crafting a genuine voice and what the future looks like for entrepreneurs in the Australian cybersecurity space. 

How do you build trust as a startup?

Startups are interesting because you don’t have parameters. You don’t have rules around what you can and can’t do. So if you’re dealing with a startup and you’ve got two founders – one who’s super technical and one who is more of the business type you actually can use them at the coalface to really drive the business forward. 

At the end of the day, people connect with people. People buy from people. So the intent behind that is to put founders at the frontline to be able to communicate what their values are and what they believe in. They can potentially be a little bit controversial on topics because that actually then gets buy-in. And I think that when you are putting yourself out there, people automatically just assume, “Well, you are the expert. Because if you weren’t, why would you put yourself out there?” 

So with a startup, there are different ways you can go about doing that, because you don’t have red tape and corporate affairs telling you what you can and can’t do. To some degree, yes, no one knows you, but you can also drive it forward pretty quickly because you don’t have any sort of parameters. 

How do you get the balance right between focusing on the business side of the startup and making sure that the technical component gets enough exposure?

I’ve seen a lot of startups that have technical founders and their business side is lacking because they’re more focused on technology. That’s fine, but you do need to have that balance. I think you guys at Daltrey are a great example. Managing Director Blair Crawford comes from a more technical background, whereas Chairman Craig Hodges comes from a business background. You have that equilibrium because you’ve got two people in each of these components. If you drop one or the other, then you can’t necessaraily work in a cohesive manner. 

So you need to have someone who focuses purely on the technical side of it. Then you also need someone who’s driving it from a business perspective, because they aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. 

Being able to speak in the language that your audience will understand and relate to is key. For large enterprises, for example, there are so many parameters that their marketing language often ends up feeling quite scripted. So how can they go about building trust in this industry?

The next wave of CEOs is definitely going to change because people don’t necessarily care about what they used to care about. They care about whether a company supports sustainability, corporate responsibility and social responsibility in the market. So the CEO does need to change their approach. 

But getting back to your point around how people navigate through that – look at the companies out there that are actually doing well with their CEOs at the coalface. They are being truly who they are. Now I understand when you’re talking at the end of the financial year, you can’t get away from your facts and your numbers. But it’s how you deliver that message. 

Removing some of that robotic noise and that contrived element to how you deliver the message is important – and perhaps not being so scripted. That’s how people can connect with people. 

What is ‘human messaging’ in your eyes, and how do you get people to understand what it is and train them to be genuine?

Have you ever watched someone on TV or even YouTube and that person is really genuine in how they speak, versus a guy in a sales meetings who’s not genuine? If you can you detect the difference, it’s that.  

Training that genuineness is not easy. People just look at stuff on TV and assume that they’re going to come out looking exactly like that. And that’s not really how this works. A lot of people are afraid to be who they are. It’s interesting now after doing this for three years, I meet people and they tell me, “I feel like I really know you” – because I’m the same person on my podcast and in my videos as I am in person. 

I don’t know if enough people are doing that. Probably because they feel afraid, because they want to feel accepted by people. But that’s how you train that human message – by being comfortable with the idea that even if people don’t like you, you are still okay at the end of the day. 

What do you think about the potential to build Australia as a top capability globally for the next level of startups and entrepreneurs to come into this region? And how are you helping them navigate roadblocks like the recent cyberattacks? 

Number one, that would be awesome if we could be named as a global leader in cybersecurity. We are quite a small population, so to get to that sort of calibre would be pretty interesting. Tall-poppy syndrome exists a lot in this country – I think that’s one reason why a lot of Australian-based startups aren’t as far ahead as ones in the US, purely based on the culture. 

The second thing is that they haven’t really articulated the idea of “What do you do as a startup?” So how do you get funding? How do you actually build the software? How do you market it? And if you want to sell it, how do you go about doing that? A lot of people ask me these questions because it’s very convoluted. There’s no definitive answer that exists out there. So I’m trying to pull that together because I would like to see innovation in this country simply because there are a lot of smart people who live in Australia. 

In terms of closing the gap, one of the things I consistently see in this industry is security people going up to other security people and talking about security. That’s not really penetrating the message, is it? It’s about getting in front of mums and dads or people who run companies that have no clue about cybersecurity. They’re not going to cybersecurity conferences, so how do you get in front of them? You’ve got to find the channels that they reside in and have the messaging that makes sense to them. It’s not ‘one and done’ blanket messaging. You need to segment and tailor it because what people care about will fundamentally change depending on what they do. 

Want more insight into the world of security, identity access management, biometrics and more? Get your weekly fix with the Identity Today podcast, hosted by Daltrey MD Blair Crawford. You can start on Episode 1 here or listen via Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast app.