Security communications in the time of COVID-19
Good communicators in the security industry take steps to ensure that they are not exploiting hardship, and this is especially relevant during the ongoing pandemic. Marketing through fear, uncertainty and doubt is distasteful, and, with the baseline for these emotions elevated within the whole population, most security marketers are clamming up to prevent a PR disaster.
This strategy comes from the right place. But, in industry terms, is it a miscalculation of the residual risk?
Security providers are held in a place of unique trust by their clients, and with this comes a responsibility to be visible and provide reassurance during hard times. Over half of the world’s population is currently in lockdown, and the surge in working from home and greater use of online services has widened the attack surface for millions of companies. This causes first and second order effects for stretched security and IT teams that are working overtime to ensure availability of data without compromising on confidentiality or integrity. No one has all the answers, so the duty to provide assurance and leadership outweighs the risks.
Getting it right
To avoid the real risks of miscommunicating in a media landscape of heightened sensitivity, start by ensuring a consistent and appropriate tone. As with all brands at this time, the top priority in all communications is to be empathetic. Where security companies differ is in the need to also be assured, even when dealing with fundamentally unpredictable measures such as the duration of quarantine measures or the cost of the fallout.
Take the time to patiently explain security concerns for companies. Use case studies and third parties to maintain a neutral tone and divorce your messaging from your company’s commercial interests as much as possible. Your thought leadership should prioritise leadership over key messages.
Consider ways to help companies and individuals out for free, whether by offering free software to emergency services or temporarily lifting the cap on endpoints for your product. While, in normal times, researchers rightly argue that threat intel is not given appropriate commercial value by the market, if you have research that relates directly to the virus, consider whether there’s a benefit to the wider market beyond your customer based to release it.
Be careful, but confident
Whatever you do, make sure that you are communicating your actions and thought leadership from a place of understanding and humility. Resist any urge to take credit; this will come once the dust settles and the crisis is over. If your competitors are making valuable insights available, consider putting rivalry to one side and sharing them. For now, the expectation is that anyone able to fight the virus will contribute and collaborate all that they can.
Finally, stay on top of the news agenda throughout your communications programme. While security is vital during this time, there are frequent and unpredictable updates on the pandemic, many literally matters of life and death. Remove all scheduled posts and triple check every tweet, comment, and announcement before issuing across shared, owned and earned media.
Security (like communications) is more important and valuable than ever right now, but this must be demonstrated and not presumed. The coronavirus will cause many companies to lose clients and face revenue issues of their own. Certain brands or sectors may be correct in going quiet, but the security sector plays a significant role in fighting the pandemic. Now is the time to demonstrate leadership and maintain the trust that is necessary for the industry to function.
Written by Ben Honan, Account Director, Business & Technology