Marketers: here's what you thought about the GDPR
You know when you've been acutely ill for a few days, and then you suddenly get better and quickly forget any pain and discomfort you'd experienced?
I liken the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to being a bit like that.
Yesterday marked two months since the GDPR launched (May 25th), and I find myself thinking, "was it all just a dream?"
"Stay in touch with us" emails - stopped.
Social media posts - gone.
Media coverage - none.
At the end of May, I set about getting a really short survey out to peers to ask for their views on GDPR implementation (triggered by both curiosity and a sense of needing some kind of cathartic relief).
Whilst we had made it in time where I was, it was not without an absolute torrent of list pulling, manual analysis, spreadsheet slicing, dicing and collating, and the flinging out of a variety of different targeted mailers. Even after May 25th, residual GDPR activity still endured for a few weeks more. My colleague would sense check something with me relating to permissions say, and we'd often have moments of confusing ourselves to the point of one of us needing to walk off and reset. (We got there though, with support via an internal project group.)
Survey out, and I quickly received over 100 responses from UK-based marketers. Many of them very willing to share some candid feedback on their own experiences (some of which you can read below).
Some offered not only on - not only the part they played in implementing GDPR - but also how they perceived things from the point of a mail recipient. Views tended to veer towards the words spam, bombarded and pointless. You get the idea.
And whilst it was fully accepted by respondents that 'the job had to be done', when asked how stressful GDPR was to work through, it averaged out at a 7 (out of 10).
Here's a run-down of the other results:
QUESTION #1 - "DID YOU GET your house in order IN TIME?"
Judging by the responses and comments to this question, the length of lead time utilised by marketing bods varied, with nearly 40% admitted that they didn't finish in time for May 25th, and with 63% seemingly crossing the finishing line as planned.
"If you prepared early, you were fine. We did not, and we suffered for it"
Another respondent remarked:
"Whilst getting everything set in time was stressful to say the least, it was a good opportunity to get our data storage house in order and improve internal attitudes to customer data."
Feedback suggested that many took advantage of the big lead time and prepped in advance to avoid being on the back foot - one, as much as 18 months ahead.
Some teams even invested in additional resource (data and insight manager, data officer, etc) to bolster their efforts. So that's all good.
However, a common criticism occurring in the free text boxes centred very much around the Information Commissioner's Officer (ICO), and the information provided by them, or not - as the case may be.
From being "too vague", to perhaps leading people down the path of becoming "too compliant", the areas seemed to grey whilst we all tried to work it out on our own little islands. As Robert De Niro once said in Raging Bull: "Don't overcook it. You overcook it, it's no good. It defeats its own purpose."
And here's what you said about the ICO...
"Guidance from the ICO would have been welcomed a little earlier."
Another respondent commented:
"We got there. Though the lack of useful, practical information and guidance from the ICO early on didn't help."
"There was such a lack of clarity about what the regulations require and how the ICO would handle complaints, resulting in huge amounts of scaremongering and inaccurate information. I thought the ICO's slightly passive aggressive 'myth-busting' blog* was unhelpful. It wouldn't have been necessary to address myths if they're been clear in the first place."
*I tried to link to this content, but got this 404 page:
Someone get a content designer on this, right away!
QUESTION #2 - "HOW PREPARED WERE YOUR BOARD AND SENIOR MANAGEMENT FOR GDPR?"
A recurring aspect appearing in individuals' comments was the 'curve-ball' that can be senior management. Whilst some senior managers (rightly) left it to their colleagues to pick up and run with, others (according to the survey) couldn't resist getting themselves involved:
One respondent said:
"The main stress wasn't implementing GDPR - it was the involvement of the senior leadership team. We all felt fairly confident in our plans and progress. Despite regularly including the CEO in comms about GDPR, there was no response...until about a month out from the legislation coming in. Then everyone seemed to suddenly wake up, panic, and request a lot of presentations. We then had to make time to prepare and present internally."
"We has an incredible number of conflicting opinions on the matter - i.e. senior management reading lots of marketing material, rather than actual GDPR legislation information."
"Our senior managers did not include key colleagues in the prep process."
QUESTION #3 - "DID YOUR ORGANISATION USE AN EXTERNAL GDPR CONSULTANT FOR EXTRA SUPPORT?"
Some external GDPR consultants will have been good. There's no doubt. They will have applied logic and reason, provided an objective view, and supplied the necessary 'comfort' to get the job done. And fair play to them. Many companies and organisations were only too happy for this external support. In fact, 25% of you said you'd received a great service from an external consultant.
However, there will have undoubtedly been some people who sought to offer their "consulting services" with scantily clad knowledge, just blagging their way through the whole thing (14%). Because for some, GDPR only meant a Great Deal (of) Pocketing Readies.
"A lot of people made a lot of money out of the scaremongering."
Let's end on a more positive note though. There were many comments about the GDPR itself, and every one I read supported the purpose and concept behind it. Whilst for many it was more like a bed of nails than a bed of roses to implement, perhaps the pain will be worth it in the end.
Or maybe it won't actually end up impacting very much at all.
My sincere thanks goes to everyone who completed the survey for me during June.