GDPR and Data Protection as a benefit

Evelyn Wolf by Evelyn Wolf   24 May


GDPR Trust

Most of our regular blog readers know that I’m really looking forward to the GDPR coming into force tomorrow (May 25th). I’ve spoken about how it feels when you realise you have something to hide and three reasons why as marketers we should be looking forward to the legislation. When Attorney IO shared an article with me based on answers from 129 law professors in the US, it dawned on me even more: Data protection is a benefit to customers and therefore an opportunity for businesses.

Treating locations differently

Without fail during our training sessions and webinars the question will come up whether the GDPR can simply be “avoided” by segmenting databases and putting the pesky EU based people to one side while treating the rest of the world as you always have.

Let’s be clear, if you are an EU based business, the GDPR applies to you. That means you have to comply, regardless of where your data subjects are. 

If you are US based, I’d encourage you to have a read of the Attorney IO article in full. The gist is that “[...] the biggest source of potential controversy is whether it is illegal “national origin discrimination” under US law to give GDPR rights to immigrants from the EU and not to everyone. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It applies in several contexts such as employment and in “any place of public accommodation. [...]”

It is commonplace for people today to travel, to communicate with others and even mask their location online, right? Therefore, it’s a logical conclusion that if you choose to segment, your audience will quickly understand that they are being treated differently depending on their location. What do you think will their reaction be? I hazard a guess, if they are at the looser end of your data protection practices, they won’t be too happy.

Trust as a benefit

Every year I look forward to the Edelman Trust Barometer. It’s a global piece of research measuring our trust in businesses, government, NGOs and media. They coined 2018 as “The Battle for Truth”. Without going into detail, we all know what fake news means and can understand what led to this level of distrust. The good news in 2018 is that trust increased in 14 out of 28 countries when it comes to business. However, people still distrust media and platforms. In short, people are even more distrusting today than they ever have been when it comes to content shared by media and platforms like Facebook.

All you inbound marketers will know that the methodology is built on building a trusting relationship where marketers inform, guide and help the potential buyer on their journey. It’s all about building trust rather than pushing a sale. Trust is a key element to making inbound marketing work. So this idea is nothing new.

If we know that people are naturally distrusting today and we know that in order to make our inbound marketing funnel feed our sales we need to build trust, then it becomes a small leap to see how the GDPR will turn into a benefit. The GDPR is about demonstrating that businesses treat their data subjects’ personal data with respect. If you can show this clearly, you build a level of trust.

Customer trust is based on not just delivering on your promise when it comes to your product and services. Today, it expands to how you treat your prospect and customer data. The principles of the GDPR say that you should process data in a lawful, fair and transparent way (check out Article 5). This means for marketers that:

  • You should limit processing to the original purpose.
  • You shouldn’t collect more data than you need.
  • You should ensure that data is accurate.
  • You should only keep data as long as you need it (and explain this to your data subjects).
  • You should ensure that you keep the data secure.
  • You should adhere to the accountability principle by taking responsibility and demonstrating compliance.

In practical terms, I have five things you can do (and are obliged to do under the GDPR) to communicate with our audience and build trust:

  1. Update your privacy statement online and ensure it’s fully understandable by your audience; no more legal speak.
  2. Ensure you clearly share in your privacy statement exactly what you intend to do with personal data, how long you intend to keep it and why.
  3. Reference your privacy statement in your consent language.
  4. Ensure your consent language is clear and doesn’t force people into a decision.
  5. Refer to data rights in your emails; simply add language to the footer.

This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a starting point.

Above all, you need to understand how important trust is to your audience and that today this is more than trust in your message and product, it includes trust in how you treat their valuable personal data.


Topics: Inbound Marketing, GDPR

Evelyn Wolf

Written by Evelyn Wolf

Inbound strategy specialist and content creator. She will turn your web presence into a magnet and always has wind in her sails.