So now what?

This too shall pass. At some point things will begin to return to normal, and that will include marketing. Right now, unless you’re in a critical industry, it’s probably pretty hard for your marketing department to maintain their enthusiasm. But unless they’ve all collectively decided to sit on the sofa watching Netflix all day, you can bet they’re planning like crazy for the end of the crisis. After all, it will be up to them to save the business when that day finally comes. 

Resuming business as usual the smart way 

The temptation to play fast and loose with privacy will be enormous. Everyone will be shouting at once. Everyone’s business will be trying to get up off its knees.  

Any number of people will be saying that with the right use of data we could do such powerful things – and there’ll be a lot of over-collected, overshared, undersecured data floating around. Think how much more people are using social media and ecommerce now they can’t go out; think how much Article 9 Special Category data is being bandied about. 

Your job is to remember Jeff Goldblum’s immortal words from Jurassic Park: ‘your people spent so much time working out whether they could, they never stopped to ask whether they should.’ 

Reputations will be made – and lost – on how companies respond to the first window of opportunity. Customers will be feeling bruised and vulnerable – exploiting their data might seem smart, but will backfire. 

Balancing information and data requirements 

Now is the time to get involved with your marketing team – get some privacy by design in action and help them see the path to effective communications without abusing data. Make sure the chain of custody and the consents remain correct – Coronavirus didn’t somehow turn off GDPR and PECR – and in a more general sense keep an eye on the tone.  

This is when you get a chance to show that even when governments are disregarding privacy – in ways they’ll come to regret – your organisation still values your stakeholders’ rights. 

Remember too that this has been a rolling-news event like no other – much more intense than the financial crisis, 9/11 or the Gulf War, for those that remember that far back. Consumers have been inundated with information from innumerable sources, much of it hysterical, hair-raising or authoritarian.  

Sometimes, even if you can see a way to legitimise a proposed data processing purpose, you might want to take a more rigorous view than usual to help your organisation re-establish trust with its customers. 

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