Why Marketing Professionals Need to Care About Cybersecurity

By Robert Half on June 6, 2017 at 4:26am

Do you need to understand and care about cybersecurity as a marketing professional? Many experts say “absolutely.”

Leadtail recently analyzed more than 143,000 tweets from 1,234 marketing executives published on Twitter during the first quarter of 2017. The results provide a snapshot of the issues CMOs are focused on. One increasingly hot topic: cybersecurity.

"In our research, we continue to find that interest and concern about cybersecurity has steadily risen with marketing leaders,” says Karri Carlson, Leadtail’s vice president of social insights. “And if you peel it back it makes a lot of sense because over the last five years CMOs have become the champions and purchasers of tons of different tools that hold sensitive data.”

Indeed, CMOs are carefully examining the data being collected at various marketing touchpoints not just for insights but also for security concerns. We spoke with some experts about how marketers should view cybersecurity — and how they can best help their companies in this area.

Why marketers should care about cybersecurity

First off, let’s discuss the reason many marketing leaders are becoming so security-minded. In short, more marketing tools means more potential vulnerabilities.

“Modern digital marketing teams rely on and use so many cloud-based technology marketing tools — everything from CRM to email marketing to managing the brand's social media presence,” says Luanne Tierney, managing member at Fivesky, a firm specializing in technology transformation for businesses. “Each of these tools creates some potential for breaches.”

Noted marketing industry thought leader Kimberly Whitler says the bottom line is that cybersecurity can no longer be thought of as some other department’s issue. “While many companies consider a data breach a technology, security or risk management issue, cybersecurity is in fact a marketing problem,” says Whitler, a leading influencer of CMOs.

"Consumers provide personal and sensitive information to companies with an understanding that the company will protect that data,” she adds. “When a company has a data breach, the real problem is the brand-consumer trust that has been broken and that jeopardizes the firm’s relationship with the consumer. The breach impairs the company’s relationship with its customers, which can lead to defection, bad word of mouth and other negative consequences.”

Fellow influencer Tamara McCleary agrees that security is the bedrock of trust between company and customer, and that marketing has a key role to play.

“Customer experience, customer journey and personalization are more than marketing buzzwords,” McCleary says. “Paramount to success in these areas is ensuring that the customer information remains safe. It's impossible for marketers to own the customer journey and provide a personalized experience without collecting private information. But in a world of digital transformation this means that cybersecurity is as much a priority for marketing as it is for IT, human resources, sales and customer service. Security is top-down, bottom-up, and everything in-between.”

So, what can marketers actually do?

Be an informed consumer advocate. Whitler says that marketing professionals, as the champions for the consumer, need to act as fierce customer advocates when it comes to cybersecurity. “Marketers can do this by becoming more involved in understanding how the data is protected and the governance practices used to limit access to consumer data,” Whitler says. “Involvement is especially important when attempting to use external vendors, which are often key sources of vulnerabilities. By demonstrating an interest in protecting consumer data, the CMO may be able to create an ally in the CIO.”

Be a good partner. Fivesky’s Tierney adds that it's no longer enough for marketing leaders to simply inform IT that they’re adding new tools to drive digital engagement. “CMOs must now closely collaborate with their IT counterparts to develop a parallel strategy for keeping company and customer information secure while continuing to drive demand and engagement," Tierney says.

Communicate clearly with customers and clients. McCleary says it’s not only critical for marketers to understand cybersecurity, but they also need to understand how to communicate effectively with customers about cybersecurity. “Again, relationships are made and broken through trust,” McCleary says. “CMOs today must be concerned with discerning the way in which security is presented to consumers. It should be communicated in a way that is both reassuring and also not taken as an invitation for cyberattacks from would-be hackers to demonstrate their ability to crack the ‘secure’ system.”

Think globally. "CMOs that market internationally need to be especially concerned about information security,” says Tina Gravel, an executive at security company Cryptzone. “Europe and Canada, for example, have regulations that specify how commercial entities may collect, use and disclose consumers' information. Failing to comply with these rules will not only make your business appear less trustworthy to buyers, it can put your business at risk.”

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