Survey of Cybersecurity CMOs: COVID-19 Impact on Security Marketing Strategy

May 27, 2020 Jessica Bettencourt

Contractions force creativity and efficiency. This is a phrase I’ve heard InkHouse CEO Beth Monaghan say several times over the past few weeks, as COVID-19 has caused all businesses to change seemingly overnight -- pressing pause on ‘business as usual’ and pivoting towards a new virtual model.

Cybersecurity is an industry many predict is well poised for sustainable growth amid and post-pandemic, but it isn't immune to the contraction brought on by COVID-19. Security marketers have had to shift their marketing strategies accordingly, in order to effectively communicate with key audiences -- which in this case, are often CSOs

As cybersecurity communicators ourselves, the InkHouse Security Practice recently polled 20 security CMOs and marketing leaders in our network to analyze COVID-19’s impact on their marketing strategy. Here’s what we found:

Unsurprisingly, 100 percent of cybersecurity marketers surveyed said they have had to shift their overall annual marketing strategy in light of COVID-19. For the most part, respondents reported that the feedback from their customers and prospects regarding the shift was positive in nature, with 43% saying that such feedback came in a slow, yet steady, cadence over the course of a month or more. One respondent added:

“For any piece of content or media engagement, we asked: ‘What is our role in helping to solve the larger problem?’ If we couldn't definitively answer that question, we would change our [marketing] approach.”

All security marketers surveyed also had to alter the tone of their marketing messages amid COVID-19, with 86% of respondents taking on a more empathetic tone in marketing communications. Additionally, security marketers adapted their tone to be more direct (29%) and philanthropic (29%), while others expressed a greater sense of urgency (24%) in their marketing efforts.

COVID-19 is also affecting how we, as individuals, consume information. Cybersecurity CMOs understand this, and have turned to select digital marketing channels to effectively communicate with their audiences. Content marketing, including e-books, thought leadership articles and downloadable resources, as well as social media, webinars and lead nurture emails were reported to be the top avenues for the security marketers we surveyed, while virtual events have also become an integral part of marketing plans since COVID-19 hit.

The pandemic has us learning to adjust to ‘the new normal,’ and for security marketers, this means scrapping rigid annual plans and pivoting as appropriate throughout the year. In fact, 58% of security marketers we polled fully expect to have to shift their marketing strategy again this year, given the fluid nature of COVID-19, and another 34% are still uncertain at this time. We at InkHouse, working in close alignment with our clients, have adopted a nimble approach to PR planning and strategy these days, as discussed here.

With remote work becoming the new norm, and cybercriminals capitalizing on the expanded attack surface brought on by an increasingly distributed workforce and other COVID-19-fueled avenues for crime, cybersecurity plays an important role in ensuring the new virtual economy can operate safely and effectively. As security marketing and PR professionals, it’s our duty to ensure we’re communicating best practices for — and our clients’ role in — securing the new tomorrow, to the right audiences, at the right time and in the right manner, even if it requires being fluid with our strategy and tactics along the way.

In the coming days, we’ll be (virtually) sitting down with a well-respected cybersecurity CMO for a video Q&A to hear firsthand how his marketing strategies have shifted since the start of COVID-19. Stay tuned, you don’t want to miss it!

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Topics: cybersecurity, COVID-19, security practice, survey, chief marketing officer
Jessica Bettencourt

As a vice president at Inkhouse, Jessica co-leads the agency’s security practice, running strategic, integrated communications programs for brands such as Raytheon Intelligence & Space and VMware. With over a decade of communications experience, Jessica is passionate about upleveling her clients' technical expertise to tell compelling stories that resonate with key audiences.

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