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Achieving meaningful media cut through on GDPR

The impending arrival of GDPR legislation offers enormous potential for PRs operating in the B2B technology space and any client 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 technology spokesperson has invited themselves too, and many trade titles are already flooded with op-eds offering advice to companies. So how to 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 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 who are 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 experts to show off their GDPR knowledge, highlighting threats and opportunities to an audience of potential customers.

Lessons for achieving cut through:

Our core focus at Missive is to use PR for business impact and GDPR offers a great opportunity to demonstrate the connection between comms and corporate objectives because coverage can directly equate to sales. And whilst every client 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, work with your client’s resident expert to find the details that are being missed, providing expert tech journos with a new angle and a 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 your client is a respected name 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 us to demonstrate the true value of communications to clients. Will this stop on 25th May? Unlikely – any spokesperson should be able to tell you that most UK organisations won’t be fully compliant, and PRs should be on hand to communicate what this means. Finally, don’t rule out Brexit just yet – smooth sailing at the moment could quickly turn into uncertainty.