Will Inbound and Content Strategies Be Grounded by GDPR?

For fans of targetted communications, GDPR will mean that a much smaller 'distribution' will result in far higher engagement by interested prospects.

You may not have noticed it, but a very significant piece of EU legislation governing the delivery of content and other marketing communications is now just 4 months away from passing into law across the EU. And for marketers relying on content distribution by email and resultant inbound traffic into and out of the EU, the consequences are very far reaching indeed.

On the surface, the EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is designed to return ownership of personal data back to the individual, and relates to companies’ use of our personal data. GDPR significantly cranks up the obligations and responsibilities on how organisations and businesses are legally permitted to collect, use and protect personal data. And this data includes email addresses.

The regulation is extremely stringent in what it will allow. From May 2018, unless EU recipients have clearly signed up (GDPR requires that consent is ‘freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous’, and articulated by ‘clear affirmative action’) to receive your email communications, marketers are no longer permitted to communicate marketing messages to them via email. This applies to all your contacts, including legacy contacts: ie those on your lists prior to the date of the regulation’s enactment.

Not surprisingly, this will have a significant effect on some marketers, as email distribution is the cornerstone of many inbound and content marketing strategies. The recent ‘2017 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends’ by the US based Content Marketing Institute for example had email as the leading content distribution channel, used by a whopping 93% of its respondents.

Meantime, the same Report outlined the most common tactics employed by content marketers, and again, at least half of these rely in whole or in part upon email distribution for traction. By May 2018 though, GDPR will spell the end of mass email distribution as a means of attracting inbound – including mass emailing of blog notifications, white papers, newsletters, infographics etc., etc., etc.

So what does this mean? If you haven’t already done so, from May you will have to get your contacts to explicitly sign up to receive your content - whether these are blogs or newsletters or any other email distributed content – before you are allowed to send it to them. Gated content is also affected – email addresses and other data collected using this tactic are also subject to the law, unless they explicitly signed up - remember it must be ‘freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous’ - to receive it.

Effectively, this means an end to mass mailing your content to relative strangers. For PR companies, press release distribution won’t be affected. I always contact named journalists directly before sending press materials anyway, as I don’t see any point in sending material to writers and editors who have no interest in receiving it. Reputable newswire organisations are expected to be equally compliant.

But the 'scattergun' days of mass emailing to 'lists' or to carelessly assembled databases of hundreds of contacts will end in the EU from May 25 2018. For practitioners of targeted communications this is not a bad thing, especially given that the ‘open rates’ for emails sent in this fashion are less than 25%, and actual click-through rates bump along in the very low single figures. These figures at least will improve with a more engaged audience who has signed up to receive your collateral.

(Pic: January Iris)

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