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How SMEs can prepare for GDPR
SMEs must prepare to obtain a ‘positive opt-in’ for direct marketing to prospective and existing customers.
From training staff to changing opt-ins, here are some starters for getting on top of this data protection regulation.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union directive that will come into force in May 2018.
It aims to create stronger and more unified protections of EU citizens’ data – and for businesses of all sizes, this means complying with certain rules around consumer data.
However, not every firm is up-to-date.
A recent Close Brothers study of 900 small and medium-sized enterprises from across the UK and Ireland claimed that just one in four has started preparing for it, while one in three is aware of its implications.
For starters, it’s well worth reading the ICO’s document, but here are some other sensible starting points for meeting GDPR.
Source some help
Miles Thorp, digital director at Banana Moon Clothing, thinks that businesses shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
“Hire someone full-time to handle GDPR or nominate an existing member of staff to be in charge and make sure that you’re fully in the know and compliant by the deadline,” he says.
Vivek Dodd, director at the training provider, Skillcast, adds that, depending on the size of the business, it can take months to get internal agreement on a GDPR message, how it’s communicated, and follow through with any activities to reinforce that message, so don’t leave it to the last minute.
While some companies will want to keep it informal – using emails and team meetings, for example – others will prefer formal, mandatory training. “There’s no set formula,” he says. “But most businesses will have to employ both, and do so multiple times, to reinforce the message.”
He suggests using a framework of three key objectives for any training, whether internal or external, to be successful.
“Privacy notices must be clear, concise and transparent”
The first is to raise awareness of the risks that potential GDPR breaches pose to the business, such as heavy fines and the potential loss of reputation.
Second, ensure that everyone completes the necessary training, accepts the changes, and transitions successfully to the new compliance regime.
Finally, he says, and most importantly: “The training needs to be incorporated into induction procedures so that new staff are trained on GDPR issues before they have a chance to work with personal data.”
Audit your data
While also undertaking all the necessary research and preparation, SMEs must audit where all their customer data is collected and stored, says Julian Saunders, founder of data management and GDPR compliance company, PORT.im.
GDPR will require that firms protect data against “unauthorised or unlawful” processing, accidental loss, damage or destruction, he explains. “The processes that businesses have in place to manage this data is crucial, which means using technology with the most up-to- date security settings.”
Work out whether what you have is fit for purpose by determining whether you can isolate and view all of the data of a single data subject quickly and easily, advises Mr Saunders.
“If not, upgrading your existing systems is probably the best approach, because this will enable you to get the best value out of your data, become compliant, and be ready for further legislative changes.”
Check your ‘opt-in’ options
SMEs must also prepare to obtain a “positive opt-in” for direct marketing to prospective and existing customers.
Under GDPR, this means that individuals must “opt-in” whenever data is collected on them (and not out).
Privacy notices must be clear, concise and transparent, explains Mr Dodd. “Currently, many businesses use opt-outs – either a pre-checked ticked box or one that needs unchecking in order to capture permission, rather than a box that must be proactively ticked.”
Sarah Brown, founder of business management consultancy, inspire2aspire, says that her main GDPR concern is checking that each of the firm’s 8,000-plus contacts is happy with the way that the business is holding their records.
The company has produced a detailed email to explain GDPR to its customers, so that they understand what’s what.
“The emails will trigger auto-responders to confirm that the
recipient wants to unsubscribe from the newsletter or be removed completely from the database – and it offers them a chance to change their mind,” explains Ms Brown.
Remember, though, that big companies have been fined for trying to get individuals to change their marketing preferences, says Katrina Cliffe, the managing director at marketing, PR and social media agency, KC communications.
Tread carefully; for example, you can’t go back to individuals and ask them to opt back in, she warns.
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