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PR offers charities the opportunity to future-proof themselves for GDPR

In May this year GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), a new Europe-wide law that replaces the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK, will come into effect. There have been many opinion pieces about GDPR and the impact that this will have on charities – some claiming the sky will fall in, others claiming little will change. The reality is this a significant overhaul of data protection law but the exact scale of the impact probably won’t be fully understood until after it comes into force (in the meantime you can read the handy FAQ the Information Commissioner’s Office has prepared for charities).

Long story short, GDPR changes the game in terms of rules regarding how people consent to their data being used meaning that at least some of the data charities hold for fundraising and marketing purposes will be made unusable. This will no doubt have an impact on the short-term success of the fundraising and marketing activities of charities.

This makes the coming months an important time for charity PR. With uncertainty swirling around marketing and advertising activity, earned media strategies and tactics offer an important way of mitigating the potential adverse impact from GDPR. Having PR content that cuts through, grabs attention and is shareable can help get charities back in front of the people they might lose to GDPR. There are a number of different ways this can be done – from eye catching media stories to emotive videos that tell the stories of the people charities are helping.

However, having good PR content shouldn’t just be seen as a quick-fix to solve short-term audience engagement issues created by GDPR. It should be integrated with other marketing strategies so that earned content is engaging people and making them more likely to provide that precious consent to use their data that is so crucial under GDPR.

There is also another side to GDPR which all charity communications professionals should have on their mind. The reputational risk to their charity. The charity sector is currently in the midst of cleaning up its act after a series of breaches of data protection regulations. GDPR offers a new layer of complexity for charities to wade through and the risk that if you get it wrong you’ll be on the wrong side of the news headlines and potentially face substantial fines. All charity communications professionals should be taking steps to ensure they are confident their charity’s GDPR processes are completely watertight.

Future-proofing is all about protecting yourself against the future. The introduction of GDPR in May is fast approaching and if charities aren’t thinking about how they can mitigate the adverse impact of GDPR then they should be – there is still time to act.