GDPR – an opportunity to stop being mugs

In 2016 my blog ‘Data capture - Are we all mugs?’ outlined how Arts Organisations were relying on a consent model for e-communications that was costing them dearly in terms of available data. Since writing this blog, a few organisations have made the decision to switch to the ‘soft opt-in’ – a completely legal, legitimate and reasonable way to ensure that people are kept informed about events they might be interested in without requiring active consent. (There are some other requirements, but they are less onerous) 

In all cases the organisations who have switched have seen the amount of email data available to them for direct marketing purposes rise significantly – in some cases even double.

In the meantime, with the advent of GDPR, we’re all re-examining our privacy policies and data processing practices. What has emerged is an almost universal use of ‘consent’ in the Arts industry as the only legal basis for processing data – both for email and postal direct marketing and fundraising. We’ve all accepted this as being the only option, and the majority of large venues are planning to continue this post-GDPR, presumably under the same premise. 

However, I’m afraid we have all been mugs. We didn’t need to use consent for much of what we do, and with the new requirements under GDPR for consent to be more ‘granular’ we are in danger of really confusing and frustrating our audiences and visitors, most of whom simply want to buy a ticket, and would find it entirely reasonable to be kept informed of future similar events that might be of interest to them.

Previous research by Indigo and Spektrix (2016) found that most Arts venues have consent to send direct marketing to only 1 in 5 of their ticket buyers, so there is no wonder that such venues have resorted to over-communicating with customers, which leads to emails getting ignored or deleted – or the customer unsubscribing so that we can’t talk to them again. 

GDPR, and the corresponding Electronic Privacy Regulations (PECR) allow other bases on which we can process data and communicate more effectively with our customers. Legitimate Interest offers a better alternative to consent for direct marketing for events and fundraising – allowing us to simply inform customers that we intend to communicate with them about our activities as Arts Charities, and then simply get on with it, unless they object; and the ‘soft opt-in’ gives us the ability to do similarly by email for similar ‘products and services’ as long as we give people the opportunity to opt out at the point of sale, and then in subsequent emails. Both need careful application, but are entirely possible, reasonable and achievable for most Arts Organsiations.

My prediction is that organisations who carefully and sensibly adopt this approach will have at least twice as much available customer data than those who slavishly follow a consent-based approach.

So even if you were a mug before, you don’t have to be now.

Katy Raines
Founder & CEO

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