Why cybersecurity should be a top priority for marketers

Marie Hatter says it’s time for marketers to recognise the inextricable link cybersecurity has with brand reputation and success.

MarieHattar_0596Many marketers don’t yet see cybersecurity as one of their main priorities. However, cyber incidents can severely damage an organisation’s brand and reputation. Cyber hacks and threats limit the opportunity for marketers to build brand affinity, customer loyalty and trust, and ultimately sell their services and products.

Marketers rarely participate in conversations relating to cybersecurity. Given the fact that digital marketing is becoming the new norm, and most marketing services are delivered through software, organisations are collecting and collating massive amounts of data, and so it is paramount that the marketing team is involved in this conversation. The current lack of engagement leaves marketers unaware of company processes, protocols, and risk mitigation strategies until it is too late and the company network or data are breached.

While marketing team members are rarely the first people involved in the company’s cybersecurity strategies and defences, CMOs should be focusing on changing this situation. A marketing team needs to be able to protect the company’s brand, come up with appropriate brand strategies, and safeguard the organisation’s reputation. They can only do this if they are aware of the potential dangers that are threatening the company, and this includes cybersecurity. Marketers therefore can, and should, play a vital role in protecting the data and trust of the business and their customers.

 

Play to everyone’s strengths and build strong partnerships

In securing the organisation, it’s key to play to everyone’s strengths. It’s unnecessary for marketers to become security experts but it is crucial for marketing teams to be in close contact with the security department, or at least be up to speed on the latest security threats and cyberattacks.

It is important for both the security and marketing departments to start building relationships before disaster strikes, so marketers get an understanding of what concerns their colleagues in the security department have, and for security professionals to get an idea of the marketing team’s needs. This will help them understand how they can prepare for these issues, and identify if they can proactively protect the organisation and its customers through communication plans and strategies.

There are many elements involved when a company’s security has been breached, such as legal issues, privacy issues, and trust issues. It is important to respond to these threats in a proper manner and too many marketers don’t realise there actually is a major brand-building opportunity if these situations are handled well. Customers are likely to have a lot more trust in the business if a security breach is dealt with, and the brand or reputation damage has been limited.

Companies also need to have an action plan in place for the worst-case scenario and identify who the first responders would be in this situation, both in the security and marketing teams. Having an incident response team in place, together with a crisis communications plan, lets organisations respond to issues in a quick and efficient manner, limiting the damage.

The recent cyberattack on the government’s Census website is a clear example of what not to do when it comes to working together to limit the damage. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publicly advertised that it was ready to conduct the Census online but, after being forced to take down the website, conflicting and confused messaging demonstrated that the marketing department and the security department were not in sync. The incident dented the ABS’s reputation and, if all parties had been more prepared, the issue may not have been so significant and the organisation’s reputation may not have been damaged at all.

The fact is more and more organisations are accessing customers’ data and the risk of a cyberattack is more prevalent. Customers will be far more likely to trust a company that has proper security measures in place to protect their information.

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Marie Hatter is CMO at Ixia.