Thought leadership drives trust in cyber-leaders, sharing best practice

News by Chandu Gopalakrishnan

Senior security executives in UK prefer to work with organisations that publish thought leadership over ones that don’t - and are willing to pay a premium.

Nearly 85 percent of senior executives from UK businesses across telecom, IT financial services, retail and the public sector prefer to work with organisations that publish thought leadership over ones that don’t, according to a survey by Code Red. More than half (58 percent) of the respondents to the security PR network’s survey were C-level executives with a focus on IT and security. 

More than 80 percent of the respondents said that thought leadership material issued by a company is a good indicator of the type and calibre of that organisation’s thinking. Nearly 75 percent were willing to pay a premium to work with a thought leader, said the survey.

A thought leader as an individual or a firm that is widely recognised among clients, prospects, intermediaries, referral sources and even competitors as an authority in their selected area of trade or profession, defines Forbes. According to that definition, thought leadership is being in the position of a go-to individual or organisation for the said expertise in their trade or profession.

While industry leaders use thought leadership drives to assert their intellectual superiority, it is also an important method for startups to gain the attention of larger peers in the industry, said 81 percent of the respondents.

While most of the respondents consider thought leadership content as a preferred method of keeping one updated on the latest developments, 61 percent of the respondents said thought leadership material has influenced their decisions to try different ways of working.

SC Media UK regularly curates opinions and views from cyber-security startups to industry veterans. David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky and a regular contributor to SC Media UK’s opinion section, asserts that efforts to build thought leadership is mandatory to thrive in the industry.

“It is necessary for major cyber-leaders to voice their views on major developments or initiate news responses as they have a responsibility to contribute to the debate by offering their expertise and knowledge,” Emm told SC Media UK.

The pace at which changes happen these days have taken away the thought leadership process from scholarly or applied research that were conducted in isolation or with a limited peer group, noted Javvad Malik, security awareness advocate at KnowBe4.

“Today’s rapidly changing environment and connected world makes it important that new concepts and ideas are spread quickly and widely. This is where cyber-leaders play a critical role in helping formulate the way forward,” said Malik, an active contributor to SC’s opinion section. 

Both disagree with the observation that building thought leadership is another public relations (PR) exercise.

There are ways to differentiate between PR campaigns and thought leadership processes. PR offers commercial gains for businesses, whereas thought leadership offers high-value information on a particular subject that affects the wider industry, explained Emm.

“PR has many tools and techniques, and thought leadership is just one of them. When done at a corporate level, thought leadership supports the organisation it is representing,” Malik told SC Media UK.

“Even individuals who engage in thought leadership activities (public speaking, byline articles etc) are undertaking this as a PR activity where they are representing themselves as opposed to an organisation.”

The focus is on the greater good of the community or industry, explained Emm, citing the publication of analysis of targeted attacks and the widespread use of anti-targeted attack technologies. 

“Whilst this is outside of the cyber-security arena, Volvo’s development of seat-belts and their refusal to patent it because of the public good that would result from their widespread implementation is a good example of this,” he added.

Malik cited Katie Moussouris as an example of effective thought leadership. 

“She has been a notable thought leader in the space of responsible vulnerability disclosure and created the first bug bounty programme at Microsoft. As a direct result of her efforts, bug bounties and coordinated vulnerability disclosures are an accepted and widespread practice within the security community,” he said.

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