Achieving meaningful media cut through on GDPR

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The impending arrival of GDPR legislation offers enormous potential for companies operating in the B2B technology space, particularly those with expertise in data, privacy or digital transformation. The rules, set to come in to force in the UK on 25th May 2018, will overturn the way that organisations must use and protect data, whilst greatly expanding consumer rights over data held on them by companies.

The complexity of the legislation, its breadth (any organisation that collects customer data will be impacted, including any global business operating in Europe), and the fact that failure to comply could result in a headline-grabbing fine of 4% of global turnover, means that businesses, and respective media, are grappling to work out what it all means. Throw in a Brexit angle (spoiler alert – it won’t have any impact on the UK’s implementation of GDPR) and we’ve got ourselves a potential coverage party. The problem is, every other tech expert is getting in on the action, keen to generate leads. With many trade titles already flooded with op-eds offering advice, how can companies achieve meaningful cut through?

Media landscape

Let’s first look at the media landscape. At one end, we’ve got the B2B tech trades that are well aware of GDPR and have been covering it extensively for most of the year. Many of these will have a dedicated reporter covering the legislation, given its importance to their audience of IT and data practioners. Due to the quantity of coverage on the subject however, cutting through the noise can be difficult and journalists will receive a lot of pitches. One tech trade editor recently told me he receives 10-20 GDPR-based pitches a day but if he’s not covering the topic right then, they’ll be binned.

At the other end of the spectrum you have national business and technology press covering GDPR from a news reporting perspective but who have little interest in expert insight or advice from your client. My experience pitching has found only lukewarm interest in the topic – one high-profile national technology reporter was unaware altogether what GDPR was even after several phone conversations. Writing for a consumer / general interest and business audience, these journalists are more interested in the big picture story for consumers or the country.

In the middle, you have sector-specific trade press, many of whom are aware of GDPR and the concern within their respective industries but are less familiar with the detail of the legislation. Here there is ample opportunity for businesses to show off their GDPR knowledge, highlighting threats and opportunities to new audiences of potential customers.

Lessons for achieving cut through

Our core focus at Missive is to use PR for business impact. GDPR is a great example of a topic where coverage can directly equate to sales, demonstrating that there is a significant connection between comms and corporate objectives. And whilst every business wants to see their name in the nationals, the more meaningful sales leads could come from coverage in trades. Here’s some lessons I’ve learnt for achieving cut through on GDPR:

Win over B2B trade press by focusing on the details:

Whilst some non-tech sector trades may still value a ‘what GDPR means for industry X’ piece, most B2B tech trades are already saturated. Instead, you should focus on finding the details that are being missed, providing expert tech journos with a new angle and a company spokesperson who really knows their stuff.

Use stats and proprietary research to create a new angle:

Killer stats will always catch the eye and GDPR is no different. Whilst angles such as ‘X% of businesses unprepared for GDPR’ or ‘GDPR will cost sector £X billion’ have already been done, the scope of the legislation means there is plenty more to explore. It helps if you are a big brand with the scale to quickly survey big groups – just a week after I was asked by the above national journalist what GDPR was they covered research from PwC on the topic.

Create ‘tension’ to get through to nationals:

One of the most interesting pieces of feedback I received was from a national technology editor who asked me “what’s the tension here? Surely businesses will just get on board and implement this?” One key to unlocking the nationals could be looking at companies, groups or individuals that are philosophically against GDPR, and prepared to fight it. Finding this tension could be key to national cut through.

Follow the political agenda:

Whilst businesses are fretting about GDPR implementation, there has been relatively little in the way of twists and turns from our political leaders, who can normally be relied upon to issue a steady stream of comments and consultation papers to latch onto. Nonetheless, there have been chances – Matt Hancock discussed implementation in August, providing a small window to discuss potential implications and pitfalls with media. As we move into 2018, these opportunities are likely to increase.

As we draw closer to the deadline, organisations of all stripes are going to value expert insight on GDPR more than ever, allowing businesses to demonstrate value through effective comms. Will this stop on 25th May? Unlikely – any expert should be able to tell you that most UK organisations won’t be fully compliant, so businesses should be on hand to communicate solutions deep into 2018. Finally, don’t rule out Brexit just yet – smooth sailing at the moment could quickly turn into uncertainty.

By Iain Waterman


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