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

27th February 2018


Jack Storry, from Grayling’s Third Sector team, outlines the PR opportunities and risks related to the introduction of 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. Opinions range about GDPR and its potential impact on charities – these range from claims the sky will fall in to others claiming little will change. The reality is probably somewhere in between – while there is no doubt this represents a significant change to the laws around data protection 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).

In essence, GDPR changes the rules regarding how people consent to their data being used, potentially rendering at least some of the data charities hold for fundraising and marketing purposes unusable. This is expected to have an impact on charities’ ability to carry out fundraising and marketing activities, resulting in the need for new ways to engage with donors and supporters.

While charities grapple with these changes and how to best manage them, PR may offer a key weapon in their armoury over coming months.  As uncertainty swirls around marketing and advertising activity, earned media strategies and tactics can provide a way to mitigate any potential adverse impact felt 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, good PR content shouldn’t just be seen as a quick-fix to solve short-term audience engagement issues created by GDPR.  It needs to 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 keep in 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 navigate and the risk of getting it wrong and being on the receiving end of negative headlines, let alone facing substantial fines is a very real one. All charity communications professionals should be taking immediate steps to assure themselves that their charity’s GDPR processes are completely watertight and do not present any reputational risks.

At the end of the day GDPR offers charities the opportunity to take a fresh look at how they operate to future proof themselves for success.  With the introduction of GDPR on 25 May fast approaching 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.

Jack Storry – jack.storry@grayling.com / 0203 861 3744 


Jack Storry

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