Chris Sargisson of Norfolk Chamber: This is why GDPR could be a positive for your business

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce new chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce new chief executive.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Norfolk Chamber chief executive Chris Sargisson explains why GDPR should not be feared – and could be used to your advantage.

I say that carefully because firstly, it really does need talking through; and secondly because we at Norfolk Chamber of Commerce have been instrumental in organising some serious talking on the subject.

GDPR – even the initials are confusing to some people. Put simply, GDPR is a modernisation of the Data Protection Act which emerged 20 years or more ago.

It's odd to think that, at that point, digital marketing wasn't really on anyone's radar. Well, now it's on everyone's so there is a need for the General Data Protection Regulation. It comes into effect on May 25, 2018.

So far, so straightforward. But then comes the fact that, sadly, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation spread around about it. (Yes, largely through the digital media; irony - I know!). 'It's going to horribly strict'. 'One mistake and it's game over'. 'Huge fines will be levied'. 'We're all doomed'. You've doubtless heard some of that.

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The truth is there are huge potential benefits from GDPR. There are benefits from even being seen to be compliant with it. It will enhance your company's reputation. Being seen as an organisation that's 'cyber safe' will have a positive effect on customer loyalty, for example.

With all of this in mind we organised a conference about GDPR. To be honest, 'legislation' is not the hottest selling point so we set our expectations at around 90 or so delegates. Over 350 people applied.

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We had, I'm afraid, to turn some away when we reached venue capacity. We may have underestimated, but in overall terms we were right. This is a subject that people – people like you who lead businesses – do want to hear about.

And our four brilliant expert speakers with a range of specialisms directly linked with GDPR were able to communicate the positives.

They highlighted the possible positive cultural change; an opportunity to communicate creatively with both existing and potential customers by building relationships of trust, where your reasons for engaging are both transparent and personalised.

They stressed the chance to treat customers' personal data with respect, just as you would in a face-to-face situation. They pointed out that GDPR can deliver a competitive edge to a business if security and privacy are vital to how you operate.

It was daunting, facing 350 worried people in a doomsday frame of mind. So our approach was to equip everyone with a deeper understanding of what GDPR actually means; what the changes are and the impact they will have on the way your business operates.

We wanted everyone to walk away with a clear understanding of some of the terms being used and to feel more prepared to form their organisation's strategy.

It worked. We've made each speaker available to listen to on a free podcast on our website. So, if you wake up at 3am in a GDPR cold sweat you can tune in and relaaax.

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