How Can Marketers Navigate the Political Sphere in 2017?

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It’s likely that 2016 will go down in history as one of the most turbulent years in politics for decades. As Britain’s decision to leave the EU sent shockwaves around the globe, Donald Trump’s unlikely rise to presidency left the world equally as stunned. Inevitably, there has been much speculation around how these events will affect the marketing industry as 2017 progresses. But whilst Brexit and Trump continue to dominate debate and discussion, there are other political developments arguably more salient for marketers that will require close attention this year.

Last year set a new precedent for government intervention in the marketing industry. After a tabloid storm over the questionable ways charities were using data, we saw a clamp down on the sector with the creation of a new Fundraising Preference Service (FPS), expected to come into operation in the first half of this year. Whilst the Fundraising Regulator’s intentions are to issue guidance nearer the time, FPS is expected to drastically limit charities’ ability to communicate with donors and prospects by giving consumers the option to block all communications from specific organisations. It has also sparked widespread anxiety throughout the wider industry, as marketers across the board worry about the potential for this type of service to be implemented in their sector.

Other issues weighing on the minds of marketers include the widely-anticipated EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), set to come into effect in May next year. The regulation will apply to every company in possession of EU citizen data and provide some much needed clarity around the ways organisations can collect, store and use personal data. Despite the significant degree of preparation involved in meeting the new rules, GDPR will ultimately strengthen relationships between brands and consumers. However, the marketing industry is still eagerly awaiting clarification from the EU which will enable them to avoid the crippling penalties of non-compliance.

In order to successfully navigate what’s set to be a thorny 2017, marketers must make a real effort to increase their awareness of political movements. This includes paying particular attention to data protection, something that will become ever more significant as the year progresses. The EU supervisory body responsible for GDPR is currently developing guidance on a range of issues which are important to marketers, such as consent, profiling and transparency. Signing up to GDPR updates is a good way to avoid feeling overwhelmed by the surge of developments due this year, and will ensure that marketers are fully informed at all stages.

Marketers within specific industry sectors, such as insurance, must also pay close attention to the issues under review by their regulatory bodies. For example, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently warned that consumers could be losing out because of insurers’ use of Big Data, and narrowly shied away from launching a full inquiry. Insurance marketers would be wise to keep a watchful eye on how this issue progresses, as well as on their own use of data, in order to avoid becoming a target for legislative action.

Businesses should create a data governance board, consisting of team members from departments ranging from tech to legal marketing, with representation for data protection. This board will help to hold overall accountability of the data, keep abreast of legislative updates, share ideas across the board on best practice on data, from accessing and storing data to transmitting it, building data strategies and essentially owning the organisation’s data. It is worth noting that GDPR is a regulation not a directive – that alone should be driving business to take a stance on the governance of their data assets.

As tempting as it is to speculate about the impact of Brexit and other high profile political developments on the industry, marketers must not overlook those taking place right under their noses, particularly around data. The countdown to GDPR is upon us and the May 2018 implementation date fast approaching. With this legislation and the prospect of further political intervention in specific industry sectors, it’s understandable that marketers may feel anxious about what’s in store. But simple vigilance will prove extremely beneficial and should reassure marketers that they have the ability to remain in control.

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