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Google C-Suite Privacy

Prioritizing privacy: how to get buy-in from the C-suite


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

September 18, 2023 | 9 min read

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Google’s Natasha Tamiru offers a practical guide for CMOs to start conversations with C-suite stakeholders when adopting privacy centric measurement tools.

How to get the C-suite on board with data privacy

How to get the C-suite on board with data privacy

CMOs know the value of getting privacy right; they know there’s a huge opportunity to think differently, change some of the things they do, to work better together with legal teams, and to have buy-in from the C-suite in order to create positive outcomes for customers and commercially.

In the Responsible Marketing Hub with Google, we’ve extensively covered the what and the why of having good privacy practices. Now comes the how; how to have these conversations and take privacy beyond the marketing department to solidify endorsement and engagement in privacy from every stakeholder in line with the broader business ambitions.

We leaned into the expertise of Natasha Tamiru, senior program lead for executive engagements, Google Digital Academy, to create a step-by-step approach for CMOs to start these stakeholder conversations and move the needle when adopting privacy-centric tools.

Get clear on your goals

First, get really clear on the scope of why privacy is important to the business. “Having a clear problem statement, outlining the need you are solving for, and the impact you are trying to achieve for the business, should be the first step before anything else happens,” says Tamiru.

These goals could include boosting brand reputation, increasing competitive advantage by driving return on marketing spend, increasing customer loyalty and trust, or improving the customer experience - but, Tamiru says, should also include the disadvantage to the business if you don’t achieve your privacy goals, which can include data breach and cybersecurity risks.

“Without having a clear scope of the problem being solved for and the impact it will have, none of your stakeholders will be happy because they won’t be aligned on the same problem - nor will they be happy with any of the solutions then proposed,” says Tamiru.

Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. “It’s a common mistake to rush into conversations too quickly - but at this stage, sometimes a slower start is needed to get the alignment you want happening faster down the line,” says Tamiru.

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Build your stakeholder influencing plan

The next step is to prioritize building your stakeholder influencing plan. To make this tangible, there are key questions every CMO should ask:

  • Who are they? Go broad to identify who all the stakeholders are, across different departments. “Make sure all perspectives and concerns are considered as each will have different expectations, concerns, power and levels of influence,” says Tamiru.
  • How may they be feeling and why? All stakeholders will have different needs, priorities, concerns and objections, so think about their different reactions and emotions. “A simple way of mapping your stakeholders is being clear on the degree they are likely to support your proposal,” says Tamiru. “At Google, we will often quickly map our stakeholders across a quadrant to get us started, so that we know where we need to prioritize our attention.”

Create a ‘Privacy Moonshot’

Once you know who your stakeholders are, their needs and priorities, you find common ground between their interests and yours. “When stakeholders see that the project success aligns with their own objectives, they are far more likely to be supportive and engaged,” says Tamiru.

Creating a ‘Privacy Moonshot’ (a collaborative privacy vision that everyone is aligned to) can encourage executives to have a meaningful conversation about privacy and how it relates to the future of the business.

“Moonshots are a great way of getting stakeholders to craft a compelling, aspirational vision, and what needs to happen to make that vision a reality,” says Tamiru. “Encourage your executives to explore the strengths of the business they can take advantage of, the challenges they will need to navigate, and identify priority actions to close the ‘transformation gap’.”

Back up your proposals

In an ideal scenario, every stakeholder would be as supportive as possible for privacy initiatives - but this isn’t always the case. Think about how to move the dial even just a little bit with each stakeholder by exploring different ideas to approach and influence. How could you get a passive supporter to become an active supporter? What do they need to show more advocacy? Can you collaborate with others to provide insights that could address any anticipated objections?

“Some executives may have concerns about the potential impact of privacy-centric measurement tools on operational efficiency or customer experience,” says Tamiru. “Alleviate these concerns with evidence from studies or small pilots that show how these tools can be integrated seamlessly without compromising productivity or customer satisfaction.”

While Moonshots are helpful, sometimes starting with smaller ambitions to get quick results can be effective for getting buy-in - for example, a ‘fail-fast-learn’ approach by getting initial buy-in to run a ‘privacy pilot’. As Tamiru explains: “this allows the business to start experimenting with privacy in a way that minimizes risk, with the results later used to share learnings, make other data-driven decisions to build a case for wider adoption of privacy tools.”

Make sure everyone feels heard

A vital step in addressing these conversations is consideration of how to adapt your communication style according to different preferences, as well as when, where and in what forum these conversations will take place. “Make sure that concerns are addressed before big meetings take place to increase the likelihood of buy-in ‘in the room’,” says Tamiru.

Ensure all stakeholders feel heard by using active listening skills. Ask open questions to get reactions to your proposals and gain a better understanding behind those reactions - for example, ‘What are your thoughts about the proposal I’ve shared?’, ‘What’s the most important priority to you and why?’, ‘What would you like to see accomplished as a result of this project’?

“If stakeholders have competing interests, this can lead to conflict, so think about how you can help them to be heard and valued, and clarify what they’ve said,” says Tamiru.

It’s one thing to get the initial stakeholder buy-in, it’s another to maintain it. To help build trust and manage any conflict that might arise once the project is underway, it’s vital for CMOs to act with integrity and be transparent about decisions and progress that’s been made, by keeping stakeholders informed throughout, and seeking regular feedback.

For more insights and practical advice to support CMOs on their privacy journey, visit the Google Digital Academy here.

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