Our personal success as marketers, the success of our individual companies and, indeed, our entire ecosystem for digital communication and commerce is predicated on one thing: trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all we do — from when consumers entrust their data to us in the belief that we’ll safeguard it and use it consistent with their desires, to the trust relationships that exist between our companies and the partners, service providers and ISPs we routinely rely on. Trust is central to all we do in email today. It will be even more important as we move into a communication environment that’s increasingly mobile, cross-channel and interactive, where data must be captured, transmitted and applied in real time.

Fundamentally, the preservation of trust (and our future success) depends on a safe and secure messaging environment. That’s what makes the insidious nature of the spear-phishing attacks we’ve witnessed against enterprises, service providers and others so disconcerting. The perpetrators are smart and operate with an insider’s knowledge of how our ecosystem works. They know the roles and relationship between us, and attack one of us to get at another — whoever might be the ultimate holder of the data they’re after. What’s more, they make clever use of our own tactics — relevancy and personalization —to achieve their criminal ends.

Aside from the brand and monetary damage done to victim companies, we should all be concerned about how these attacks are subverting our trust relationships, and about their cumulative impact. We should be concerned about the erosion of trust consumers have in companies and their willingness to share the data that makes digital communication work. And we should be concerned about the erosion of trust we have in each other, the diminished vitality of our ecosystem and our impaired individual and collective effectiveness.

I know that security isn’t a topic marketers like to think about. It’s not in our DNA. Our jobs are about generating revenue and building customer relationships, and our organizations are optimized around those goals, not risk mitigation. But I’d suggest our jobs and goals are directly at risk. That’s why safe and secure messaging is a survival issue for us —it’s no longer optional, or a problem to dismiss as something for our IT departments to worry about. It’s our issue. As marketers, it must change how we think, plan and operate, and we must be its most vocal champions.

All of these issues are addressed in the new white paper I’ve authored with Mike Hillyer: Safeguarding Message Streams for Enterprises and Email Services Providers. Please give it a read and share your thoughts in the comments.