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What PRs need to know ahead of the changes in May 2018

Posted on Mon 4th Dec, 2017 in: Advice, GDPR, Industry Comment by Laura Cavanagh

The mumblings surrounding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are getting louder. And with implementation just around the corner (well, less than six months away) those that it’s set to impact are trying to figure out a) what the impact will be and b) what measures need to be applied in order to avoid a nasty fine of up to €20 million.

For those that aren’t aware, GDPR is a regulation that requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. And before you ask, no, Brexit isn’t going to save you from this.

Pretty intense stuff. A lot to think about and understand. You’d be wrong to think that just because you’re not the organisation going out and collecting data that you will not need to acknowledge GDPR. For PR and marketing agencies these new regulations absolutely impact you. As soon as we receive that personal data, it is our responsibility to respect that information and how it’s used.

And whilst this is naturally causing a few to squirm as we wonder how the changes may impact campaign activity that encompasses personal data, it’s actually going to improve the work we do.

Okay there may be less data as the ‘opt in’ feature becomes more prominent and it will be much easier to unsubscribe, but the quality will be so much more authentic. Why? Because people whose details we do have will have actively stated that they want to engage with us. Or at least hear from us in some way. No more blurred lines. Also, the likelihood of falling foul of a data breach and, ultimately, damaging your company’s reputation among customers, is going to be much less. Ahem… Bupa.

And if we could just take our business hats off for a moment and appreciate these changes from a consumer point of view. The new regulations are going to remove a lot of those headache-inducing sales calls. Those incessant calls, emails, text messages from that random company. We all know the ones. In fact, often we’re sat there thinking “Did I even say they could contact me in this way?” – most likely you didn’t. If you’re like me, then that leaves you pretty much despising the company that’s now harassing you.

But let’s face it, if that’s how we feel as consumers then we also need to take that into consideration from a PR and marketing point of view. Although customer insight can be the linchpin to a lot of campaign activity, the last thing we want to do is ignite brand hatred. In fact we pretty much want to do the opposite!

For fellow PRs out there, we’ve pulled together a few things to be aware of:

  • When using a data collection company, make sure you’re asking all the right questions. You need to be confident that they are GDPR compliant and they should be able to back this up. If you don’t then the data you collect will be null and void because essentially using it in any way will be breaking this legislation.


  • After data has been passed to you what you do with it is imperative. It can only be used in the way that has been originally stated. For example, gathering data for one client cannot then be used for another client.


  • Be prepared to be specific and transparent about how the data you’re collecting is going to be used. The clearer you are upfront the better.


  • Don’t panic. There’s a lot of fake news flying around about GDPR so make sure you’re using reputable sources to get the information you need.

The curse in all of this is that there will be certain hoops we need to jump through to make sure we’re operating in a compliant way. Thankfully there are plenty of guides about and data collection companies are making huge headway, if they’re not there already, to being ready for the changes in May 2018.

Essentially though there are some serious benefits that marketers can take from GDPR:

  1. The data quality we have will be a lot better
  2. It will also be a lot more accurate
  3. We’re not going to be irritating our target audiences with unwanted communications
  4. It will reduce the likelihood of a security breach
  5. Business reputation will be maintained and improved

There is still plenty of time to get your head around the changes and to understand what steps need to be taken between now and then. Our advice would be not to leave it to the last minute as this will only leave you open to misconduct.


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