How to Write Cybersecurity Use Cases

Learn how to write Use Cases in an engaging, immersive, and empathetic manner to generate sales leads and help build lasting relationships with buyers.

How to Write Cybersecurity Use Cases

One of the most effective kinds of marketing content you can use to convince others they should invest in your company’s cybersecurity solution is the Use Case. In this article you will learn to write Use Cases in an engaging, immersive, and empathetic manner to generate sales leads and help build lasting relationships with buyers.

What Is a Use Case?

A Use Case in business explains the context in which a potential consumer will gain value from your commercial offering. The business world adopted the term from Programming. In programming, a use case encapsulates the steps used to realize a goal.

The goal could be as simple as passing data on to another software module or as complex as displaying a user interface. But this tutorial is about writing content. Content has the twinned goals of hooking readers and compelling them to read to the end of a piece of writing. Even better, well-written Use Cases will inspire people to act on what they’ve learned — preferably, to become a qualified sales lead or, even better, to buy a product or service.

Use Cases have to be interesting to read. They also have to present a compelling context in which potential buyers can see themselves investing in a product. That means readers need to feel how they will gain value from using a technology product in a world dense with technologies. A great Use Case transports the reader into a world in which they use and find value in applying a technology offering.

How Cybersecurity Use Cases are Different

Explaining cybersecurity technology to potential buyers is not the same as demonstrating vacuum cleaners. The same can be said for a lot of new and emerging technologies in the digital space like Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. However, cybersecurity is one of the fastest evolving technologies in the world. There is a real and present danger that malicious actors will cause actual harm to organizations and individuals.

So, cybersecurity is one of those dynamic and sophisticated technologies that must explain a lot in a little space. The real craft of cybersecurity writing is succinctly explaining complex technical concepts without talking down to the audience or dumbing down explanations.

Moreover, Use Cases have to demonstrate how you mean the consumer should use your product. The old writer’s adage, “Show me! Don’t tell me!” becomes apt. Use context, imagery, and story-telling to put the reader in the place of the subject. So it’s vital that you know who your target audience is and, even more important, how they feel!

Who Is Your Audience?

So the most important consideration before you begin writing your use case is the audience for which you intend the content. Is the audience technical or non-technical, consumer or business user; if the reader works in business, is the content for front-line staff, middle management, or executive level readers? Whom you’re writing for determines a whole host of factors in the development of a final product.

The audience determines the length of your piece. If it’s for people who have very little time on their hands, perhaps a short-form article of around 500-words is most appropriate. If it’s for a business manager who is trying to understand a technology, compare solutions, and choose a tool, perhaps a longer-form article of 1500-words or more is most appropriate.

The audience you’ve settled on writing for also determines what writers call the “voice” of the piece.

Choosing Your “Voice”

We all know we walk around with a multitude of voices in our heads. We spend a great deal of time sorting through those voices, whether we are alone or with others. Writing, in particular, forces the writer to focus on a specific voice in our head to express ideas to readers.

Everyone is familiar when they read fiction of becoming acquainted with a character because of what they say and how they say it. We also expect the characters will express themselves differently; that is, they will each have their voice.

In nonfiction, voice is a more straightforward concept. Are you writing a blog? A white paper? Is the audience looking for something informal to read, or are they busy managers who need to cut to the chase to get at whatever they are looking for?

I wrote an article for entitled, “Cybersecurity Vendors Need to Stop Fear-mongering.” Permeating content with an apocalyptic voice backfires when it comes to putting your product’s best foot forward. The most compelling voice is empathetic; that is, you know how the reader sees her world. You know the challenges she’s presented with and offer a solution to at least one of the problems. And then you succinctly explain how.

However, if you can’t hook the reader, you can’t show them how amazing your product is. So how to do it without turning them off?

The Essentials of a Use Case

Any Use Case has several essential elements:

  • The Hook, or opening of a piece
  • The product introduction
  • Transparent Writing
  • The solution in action
  • How the offering fits into the user’s world

The Opening “Hook”

An approach I’ve found useful in hooking readers is opening with a relevant news item that represents a long-term trend. For instance, I wrote a Use Case for a cybersecurity solutions provider to build interest in its tools for media professionals. I opened the piece with:

In March 2017, the Bloomberq news website reported that the CIA award of a medal of honor to the Saudi Crown Prince was a show of support for the monarch. The CitizenLab cites in a May 2019 investigative article that the site was fake (hence, the apparent misspelling of the reputable Bloomberg name). CitizenLab attributed Iranian trolls with creating 72 lookalike domains and 153 fake news articles. It took nearly two years of research and analysis for the deception to become public.

I like this opening because of the purposeful misspelling of “Bloomberq,” which at some level — if even subliminal — makes the reader pause. It piques their interest. I explain the misspelling was nefarious and link it to a long-term trend without becoming alarmist. Since the readers are journalists, I take a couple more sentences to show how fake websites and news articles make their jobs as professionals more difficult.

Then, I introduce the company’s offering and how it can add value and authority to their work.

Introducing the Product

I like to set up the reader’s conundrum before promoting the company’s solution. I prefer to do it as the last paragraph of the summary/introductory section of the piece. The device provides a segue into the next part of the Use Case, where I drill down into the different kinds of journalists that will find the product useful. The Product section will also illustrate how various aspects of the product work

In this instance, I introduced the business solution this way:

...The ACME Investigative Toolkit provides the kind of domain research tools that journalists need in the online world. The Toolkit provides Cybersecurity journalists, mainstream journalists, and investigative journalists with the ability to perform deep-dives into the internet sources making and promoting the news. Media Investigative Platform is a product of ACME Cyber Solutions, which provides the cybersecurity community the means to track and foil cybercriminals and protect the online reputations of brands…

The Use Case then shows the ways the three kinds of journalists can use the Toolkit to verify sources, monitor domain activity, and uncover the origins and authors of fake news domains.

Write Transparently

Cybersecurity can be a highly opaque profession. Much like the military, infosec professionals have larded the lexicon of the craft with acronyms. Sometimes, cybersecurity specialists introduce lines of programming code in content to prove their stature, depending on the audience. They will use abbreviations not to enlighten a reader, but instead as a kind of written secret handshake to show they are part of a trade of the highest order.

Abstruse text may be useful in technical blogs and journals, where the readers themselves are technical experts. However, when marketing or just plain explaining a technology, always explain functionality in a way that even your mother could understand. Don’t assume the reader is a technical expert. It’s very seldom the higher up an organization ladder you go that a reader is attuned to the jargon you eat, drink, and breathe. Executives — CISOs, CIO’s, CFO's and the like — need to make decisions quickly. They become impatient if they have to ferret out the meaning of a passage or decipher an acronym.

The Solution in Action

It doesn’t take much to sketch how a product can help the reader. However, it is critical that you illustrate how the audience can use the product to improve their condition. However, if the reader is a non-technical reader, you’ll need to break down those conceptual barriers to transport them into the scene.

It doesn’t take much to break down a technology concept. For instance, in describing how a domain name analysis tool can aid journalists, I write:

One of the most illustrative features of the tool is a world map that resolves an IP address. IP resolution shows where data and infrastructure for the address resides. Suspect IP addresses will show clusters of the IP’s composition in regions that belie a website’s messaging (so for example, a website that publishes content about American political issues with servers resolved in Eastern Europe may not have American civil discourse in its interests.)

In the Use Case, I don’t assume the journalist knows about domain name resolution, or that they already know how it can potentially aid them in learning about the source of fake news.

Walk in Their Shoes

Engineers and technicians find it very difficult to put themselves in the shoes of others who are not like them. Instead, the technically-inclined have geared themselves toward absorbing the intricacies of technologies and making them work. And yet, empathy is critical if they are writers, and non-technical people are the readers.

The exercise of empathy is critical to get your point across that your company has a great product. Emotional insight is also essential in putting the reader into contexts in which the audience can see themselves using your great product. Finally, nowadays, the people who control the purse strings, in general, are non-technical decision-makers. At some point, IT managers, team leads, and department heads have to defer to influential, non-technical leaders. Your writing can aid the technically-inclined make the case to non-specialists to purchase your product. After all, it's non-users or average users who may make the final decision to pass on your life's work.

The awesome GIf used in this article is called The Ring and was created by Le Khuong.