Making the most of data firms collect

Companies can fail to realise the opportunities in the data they already have

Companies collecting data can fall foul of data protection rules and suffer potential reputational damage

Companies collecting data can fall foul of data protection rules and suffer potential reputational damage

Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 01:04

Data management is all about “building compliance in”, said Hugh Jones, a data protection consultant with Sytorus, at a breakfast briefing on Tuesday to announce a new masters course in Digital Marketing and Analytics from The Marketing Institute of Ireland and DIT’s School of Marketing.

The focus on data in advertising and marketing tends to be on the top-line, sexy stuff, about developing deeper brand relationships and reaching consumers in new and interesting ways through increasingly available information.

Mining the data, particularly of digital natives, is where the colour is but Jones’s back-to-basics starting point is more sobering. He talked about how data protection has to be part of a risk-management strategy for any organisation and, as with any risk management, people typically only become aware of its effectiveness when something goes wrong.

Companies collecting data can, at worst, fall foul of data protection rules and suffer potential reputational damage, or can unintentionally irritate a potential customer.

“The last thing you want is for a customer to receive a piece of direct marketing and for their first reaction to be an irritated, ‘how the hell did they get my contact details?’.”

Companies, he said, can also fail to realise the opportunities in the data they already have. He gave an example of field (literally) research that Sytorus conducted at the National Ploughing Championships last year. Such events are viewed by companies, big and small, as “target-rich environments” and opportunities for “data trawling”.

Hundreds of companies take stands and, of the 28 he picked at random – and who were typically getting data in various ways such as by holding competitions – 25 fell foul of data-protection rules which govern how data is to be used, passed on and stored.

Meanwhile at two stands exhibitors had leaflets on which hundreds of potential customers had ticked the box saying they wanted more information but they had not been asked to leave their contact details and so the companies had no way of contacting them.

“Missed opportunities like that happen all the time. And obviously that’s not just the Ploughing Championships; pick any large event and companies will be trying to collect data, sometimes without the taking the necessary step of building in compliance at the beginning.”

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