Cybersecurity and Data Breaches: What CMOs Need to Know

CMOs Need to Work Closely with the C-Suite on Security Issues

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With the explosion of today's digital age, cybersecurity is quickly becoming one of the foremost issues facing CMOs. In order to be successful, CMOs must prepare themselves for a highly dynamic cybersecurity threat landscape, and with the help of the C-suite, develop a proactive strategy to prepare the organization for the dangers lurking around the corner.

Digital technology has opened many new doors for organizations, enabling greater brand engagement and innovative customer experiences. But, at the same time, it has also exponentially multiplied the points of vulnerability for data breaches and theft of proprietary data. With the increased use, integration, and interconnection of mobile devices, security is even more imperative. This is particularly vital for marketers who must incorporate security into their strategic marketing plans and determine how new security solutions can deliver valuable customer insights.

CMOs are key drivers of digital-based growth for most organizations, yet many are not accustomed to working with the CIO and certainly not in the habit of collaborating with the security department. So how can the CMO improve in these areas? It starts with increased communication with the CEO, CIO and the board.

The key to a good relationship between the CMO and the board is a shared belief in and commitment to a common vision for the organization. If this synergy between the board and the CMO is lacking, collaborating on complex issues like cybersecurity and data management will be challenging. Incorporating successful security practices should be an enterprise-wide mission, and management is responsible for clearly communicating that it is a top priority. One of the most important defenses any company has against cyber threats is a widespread and deeply rooted culture of security, shared by all employees, that is bolstered by exemplary leadership, regular training, strong policies and enforcement.

In the event of a breach, CMOs will suddenly find themselves on the frontlines. The most evolved enterprises know that a solid security posture includes careful incident response planning. CMOs are an essential part of this conversation, and should map out a detailed strategy for how brand, customer, and product concerns will be addressed in the aftermath of a breach. There are many lessons to be learned from recent high-profile breaches; financial and reputational damage will be amplified or mitigated, depending on the effectiveness of the response. A thorough and data-driven exploration of post-breach scenarios will help convince resistant CEOs and boards of the importance of CMO involvement in security and incident response planning.

Keeping your data secure

Attackers have become more organized and their attacks more sophisticated. Cyber threats are more numerous and more pernicious, posing more widespread risks to an organization's reputation. Brand reputation and the trust-based relationships among suppliers, customers and partners have become attractive targets for cybercriminals and hacktivists.

With the speed and complexity of the threat landscape changing on a daily basis, all too often we're seeing businesses being left behind, many times in the wake of reputational and financial damage. CMOs need to work hand-in-hand with the CEO and board to ensure the organization is fully prepared to deal with these ever-emerging challenges by equipping their organizations to better deal with attacks on their data and manage the inevitable fallout impact on the brand and stock price.

Dealing with a data breach

In the wake of a headline-grabbing data breach, there are a number of things that a CMO should do. Many would say that this includes pulling back planned traditional ads and letting outreach about the breach speak for the brand for a bit. This would be followed by new ads that address the breach and try to pivot the brand forward somehow.

But I want to stress that this is the last thing a CMO should do.

Today's CMO must review any planned publicity or external communication in the wake of a breach and be intimately involved in how the brand is managed over the days and weeks to come. The followup steps are then to provide information about how the breach is being handled, how it has been managed and how the company has dealt with the issue. It is all about creating transparency and being seen to be communicating in an ethical and trustworthy manner -- rather than using it as either a PR opportunity or attempting to pull the wool over people's eyes, nor pulling down a veil of silence.

Preparedness is key

Today, the stakes are higher than ever before, and we're not just talking about personal information and identity theft anymore. High-level corporate secrets, vital infrastructure and brand image are constantly under attack. Organizations need to be aware of the important trends that have emerged or shifted recently, as well as those that they should prepare for moving forward.

The time is right for CMOs to step up to the plate and work with the CEO and board of directors to ensure that their organizations are better prepared and engaged to deal with these challenges. By rising to the marketing and security challenges inherent to the digital enterprise, CMOs can successfully raise their profile in the C-suite and increase their level of engagement across the organization -- two of the main objectives of many ambitious CMOs.

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