Security must be top priority for brand publishers

The suggestion that a Thomson Reuters employee helped members of Anonymous hack into the Los Angeles Times website is another reminder of the need for vigilance when it comes to publishing of all types.

The suggestion that a Thomson Reuters employee helped members of Anonymous hack into the Los Angeles Times website is another reminder of the need for vigilance when it comes to publishing of all types.

Charges were brought by the Department of Justice against social media editor Matthew Keys for allegedly conspiring in December 2010 with members of the hacker group to log in to a computer server owned by the Tribune Company, which owns the Times. The hackers were apparently able to infiltrate the site and make changes to articles.

This comes after a series of rogue incidents involving the corporate websites and Twitter feeds of brands including Burger King and Jeep that has forced marketers to reassess their publishing strategies and the balance between security protocols and fast-moving real-time marketing that is the hallmark of effective social media.

As any regular reader of PRWeek knows, the trend for brands and corporations to become publishers and content producers is one of the biggest developments in communications over the last 18 months. Companies are cutting out the middle man and channeling content directly to a generation of users that isn't put off by corporate content.

Procter & Gamble calls its communications team “The Producers” and Target CMO Jeff Jones put content at the top of his priority list when I interviewed him for our special Marketing Issue in February. These are exciting times for communications pros as they navigate the new dynamic of the mix of paid, earned, shared, and owned media.

This is natural territory for PR pros, who have long been specialists in earned and shared media and whose skills are increasingly being utilized by marketers to help them supercharge their brands and organizations.

But the new opportunities offered by content must be tempered with caution when it comes to security, which was one of the top topics of conversation when world leaders gathered in Davos in January for the World Economic Forum, and which is covered in detail on an ongoing basis by PRWeek's sister publication SC Magazine.

Gartner says the CMO will be spending more on IT than the CIO by 2017. This is a stunning and fascinating prediction. But it will require a complete change in mindset and skillset from marketers and communications professionals as they embrace the new opportunities – but also threats – offered by technology.

Otherwise there will continue to be unfortunate hacking incidents that might provide some temporary amusement for those involved but the joke will not be shared by the guardians of brands and corporate reputation in the communications profession.

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