GDPR is here – and the PR industry is still going strong

GDPR is now (finally) upon us. Despite this, there’s still a great deal of misinformation out there concerning the legislation, as well as how it’s set to affect the PR industry.

Luckily, because the majority of the information we use is held by third parties, GDPR is unlikely to have a major impact on the work we do. In fact, far from being a threat, GDPR could in fact be a unique opportunity for the PR industry to raise its standards, as well as showcase exactly what we can offer to our clients.

With this in mind, here’s a few thoughts on how PR is set to fit into the post-GDPR business landscape.

How media relations have (not) been affected

Putting all other considerations aside for now, the main question on many PR practitioners’ lips is likely to revolve around where they are legally allowed to send press releases moving forwards.

After all, a journalist’s contact details (phone, work email etc) very much fall under the remit of “personal information”, and GDPR states that this data cannot be shared or processed without the express consent of the journalist in question. This has led to widespread confusion among PR professionals as to whether they will still be able to contact journalists without express permission, as well as what may happen to their media lists in future.

For starters, don’t panic. As it stands, nothing is likely to happen to the third-party media databases which contain this data, such as Gorkana/Meltwater/Kantar/(insert your favourite here). If processing personal data is central to what an organisation does, as it would be for these businesses, then the data stored is protected under the grounds of “legitimate interest” and will thus be largely unaffected by GDPR.

But we must bear in mind that unfettered access to journalists contact details is a privilege, not a right, and should be treated as such. Abuse of this privilege could lead to the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) being pressured to place greater restrictions on how the PR industry processes and uses journalists’ personal information moving forwards.

Such restrictions, and the subsequent need for us to gain express consent to contact every journalist for every story, could spell disaster for PR’s and journalists alike (remember, journalists need us as much as we need them!).

Email marketers should be concerned

While GDPR will not change the way we contact journalists, or our clients (due to processing of client data being necessary for the performance of a contract), it’s a rather different story for email marketers.

If you shop or consume news online, you likely received a bevy of emails from businesses in the run-up to May 25th asking you to opt-in to future marketing communications. However, chances are you ignored at least a few of these emails, meaning that, legally, your details must be removed from their database.

With this in mind, marketing success will now be determined not by how many people businesses can spam with emails, but rather trust, reputation, and the effective communication of information; key tenets upon which our industry is built.

Over the coming weeks, there’s set to be a host of brands with much-reduced databases – and marketing budgets that were previously spent on email marketing – looking for new ways to reach customers … and that’s where we come in.

Forward-thinking PR practitioners will thrive

85% of customers count Google as their first port of call when researching a business, product or service, highlighting just how critical online visibility is for brands in the current climate. PR has a huge impact on search visibility, and a digitally-savvy PR agency can offer far more than simple brand awareness through securing high-quality backlinks from key media titles, which in turn increases non-brand search visibility for commercial keywords.

In the wake of GDPR, digital metrics such as website conversions and search rankings are now far closely linked to business success. This in turn means that progressive PR agencies, who can confidently navigate this new business landscape, will be more valuable to brands than ever before.

While compliance still needs to be a consideration – for those of you still struggling, the CIPR has published a handy 5-point checklist – the PR industry could (and should) continue to thrive post-GDPR.

From how we plan out our campaigns, to how we approach the media with stories, right the way through to how we measure the success of the work we do, GDPR provides a real opportunity for us to showcase the best of our profession, as well as just how valuable we can be to businesses and journalists alike.

Essentially, our work on GDPR moving forwards should not be motivated by compliance, which should affect us far less than most, but rather as part of our ongoing duty to our clients, our contacts in the media, and our industry as a whole.

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