How GDPR affects content marketing (and what to do about it)

Strict new data regulations are about to shake up the digital marketing world and everybody should act now

On 25 May 2018, a potential audience of 750 million people for your content will suddenly fall under new data regulation.

If that sounds a bit dramatic, well, it is.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU initiative designed to drag painfully out-of-date data protection laws into the twenty-first century and beyond. It concerns exactly what data companies hold on individuals in the EU and how much that individual is aware of it.

In other words, content marketers have plenty to keep themselves busy.

What is GDPR?

The current data protection regulations came into effect in 2000 at a time when only large companies were storing data. Since then, data has exploded.

Enormous technological advances mean that data swaps between companies are the norm. We are constantly hit with email campaigns we don’t remember signing up for or receiving targeted ads based on things we’ve previously clicked on – where we live, our age… the list is endless.

No wonder that it’s time for an overhaul. The new regulation can be boiled down to one word: consent.

Or to expand slightly:

  • Companies must keep a record of how and why someone gives consent for their personal data to be stored
  • There has to be a clear audit trail for this consent. A pre-ticked box is not acceptable
  • Individuals have ‘the right to be forgotten’, i.e. they can take away their consent whenever they want and that information has to be permanently erased
  • The fines for failing to comply are up from £500,000 to a maximum of £18 million or 4% of global revenue, whichever is greater.
Impact on email marketing

Do you collect email addresses and send emails to subscribers? The likelihood is that you do. After all, the email newsletter is a trusted content marketing technique.

That means you will need to comply with GDPR.

In order to abide by the new rules, the individual will need to have opted in to receive your mail. This may be already the case, but the rules have tightened considerably, stating that consent has to be “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous.”

If you’re asking people to sign up for your newsletter, you have to explicitly state your brand is collecting data and what it will be used for. If someone has entered their email details to download a white paper from your website, you cannot just add their information to your generic marketing email list.

As of 25 May 2018, companies will need proof of consent. That means screengrabs of where and when the individual has consented or, even better, consent forms, all safely stored where they can be accessed as required.

The same is also true for data already obtained. Which means you need to start reaching out to subscribers now.

Use it as an opportunity for an engaging, friendly email laying out the changes and what it means for them. Your email won’t be the only one your audience is going to be receiving on the matter – so make yours stand out.

Opportunities for content

In the move towards reigning in the spread of data, Apple has announced new rules targeting, well, targeted ads in its next release of Safari.

The trend is clear: regulation is clamping down on data collection – leaving the path open for useful, relevant content.

As content marketers, we have a head start at how to best engage with an audience.

Or, as Zach Thorton, external affairs executive at the Direct Marketing Association, said last year: “The two years before the GDPR become law are a great opportunity for marketers to look at what they are doing and make sure they are comfortable with the regulations, and adapt.

“It will also give marketers the chance to explore new ways to use technology, data and creativity to reach potential customers effectively.”

The change in the rules demands your attention now. But the advantage held by companies with large amounts of data has now been reduced. Whisper it quietly, but content is the new data.

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