Welcome to the second part of our series on developing executive sponsorship for your records management or information governance project. If you recall, in the first article, we discussed:

  • Selecting a potential executive sponsor
  • Preparing an effective pitch

Now that you’ve identified your desired catch and cast your line, let’s discuss how you can reel them in and keep them invested—especially when a failure to implement your project could expose your organization to costly regulatory penalties.

Getting an executive sponsor committed can be a lot like fishing: after much preparation and a little luck, you’ll feel that first nibble on your line. But you’ve got to be ready to act! Any angler knows you’ll lose your catch if you’re too aggressive or not aggressive enough. Just like when fishing, finding balance is key—you’ll have the most success landing an executive sponsor if you act consistently, clearly, and concisely.

Be Consistent in All Interactions

Consistency at all stages is critical for a successful relationship with your executive sponsor. When you apply inconsistent pressure to your line, it’s likely to break and leave you empty-handed. While meeting project deadlines and providing accurate deliverables is part of consistency, having regular—not insistent—communication is also key. We all have that one friend who talks too much out on the lake and scares the fish away. Don’t be that person.

Consistency allows for flexibility in the details and execution through maintaining a clear objective with open communication. Regular, scheduled meetings, even if brief, provide a platform to keep your sponsor updated without being bothersome. This approach ensures your executive sponsor is always informed and involved, further fostering your partnership. Conversely, inconsistent contact with your sponsor is the quickest way to lose their trust—and future support.

Be Clear with Your Expectations

Your sponsor is staking their institutional reputation on your project and is expending professional capital to marshal support and resources. Accordingly, you must communicate clear goals and waypoints so they will see progress and share in the wins. You also should ensure your objective is aligned with your sponsor’s so you move in the same direction instead of fighting the line. Provide a broad, high-level goal that will allow your sponsor to clearly and succinctly communicate the project to other stakeholders.

To do this, provide your sponsor with an “elevator pitch” they can use to demonstrate the project’s focus on one or more of your organization’s goals, like cost minimization, while highlighting the risks of not proceeding with your RIM/IG project. Here’s an example to get you started:

Revising our records retention schedule will eliminate duplicative retention, which will cut our storage costs by 20 percent, and decrease the risk of over-retention of client personal data!

Including cost savings estimates or examples of recent enforcement actions—and accompanying fines—is especially useful. This may require collaboration with IT or finance departments to determine your program’s current state and estimate your project’s effects.

Having a clear focus does not mean you can’t adapt when needed. You should be willing to compromise and modify aspects of your project to achieve your objective. Don’t be afraid to take your sponsor’s feedback or make course corrections. Letting a bit of line out is good to keep overall progress moving forward. Compromise demonstrates to your sponsor that you want to get the project done right, not that you have to be right. And that gives you more credibility if you need to stand firm on a less-negotiable portion of the project.

Be Concise When Communicating

Your executive sponsor doesn’t have much time to spend hashing out every detail of your RIM/IG project. Providing a potential sponsor with a clear plan allows them the confidence to delegate the details to you without micromanaging the project. Demonstrate respect for their time, and they’ll likely see you as a self-starter who gets things done. If you’re unprepared and unfocused when talking with them, a palpable negative feeling emerges that can be fatal to sponsorship. Nothing ruins a fishing day like forgetting your tackle box, and nothing ruins a sponsorship like not being able to confidently provide a simple status update.

Again, having a ready summary of enforcement actions against similarly situated companies helps strengthen your project’s importance to the organization. Create a one- or two-sentence summary of the facts and outcome to make it easy for your sponsor to understand and communicate them to others. You will have less influence if you simply send them copies of the decisions or—worse yet—a link to the regulator’s website.


There’s no feeling like landing a prize fish after a long battle. Once your first RIM/IG project is successful, if you’ve been consistent, clear, and concise with your sponsor, you’ll have established a professional relationship that will pay dividends deep into the future. This is critical to developing a robust RIM/IG program. They might be willing to sponsor your next project or provide a vote of confidence in your abilities to other stakeholders. You might even develop a mentor who can guide you to your next career step! So, dream big, plan well, and cast your RIM/IG project into the world to see what you catch.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post is to provide general education on information governance topics. The statements are informational only and do not constitute legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the application of the law to your business activities, you should seek the advice of your legal counsel.