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Testing times for UK Marketers – new laws may change the game

These are testing times for UK marketers and those in the PR sector. New legislation is on the horizon which may curtail some of their current freedoms.

Eighteen months ago David Cameron warned that the lobbying industry was ‘out of control’ and in January 2012 the Government published its consultation paper ‘Introducing a Statutory Register of Lobbyists’.

There have been the expected squeals of indignation from the PR industry and much lobbying by the lobbyists themselves. The PR world is particularly incensed that the Government will exclude in-house teams and charities from the proposed register.

However, a new organisation Lobby Transparency (www.lobbyingtransparency.org) estimates that lobbying is a £2bn industry that must now be regulated and become more transparent with a detailed register of all such interests.

Meanwhile, the PR industry is gearing up for another fight since the Government also wants to regulate media relations as well in the light of the Leveson Inquiry into the Culture, Practice and Ethics of the press.

In addition, only last week the House of Lords Communications Committee report on journalism called for stronger regulation of the PR industry, suggesting that PR was a threat to the future of journalism! This is a very strange double-standard following some of the findings from the Leveson inquiry.

Over in email marketing the proposals for amendment to the European Data Protection Directive (also published in January) have been causing shock waves amongst marketers. Under the proposals there will be severe restrictions on how marketers can use personal data for marketing purposes.

The key issue is that there will be a ‘right to be forgotten’; people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate reasons for retaining it.

Also, wherever consent is required for data to be held, under the proposed guidelines processed, it will have to be given explicitly, rather than implicitly as now.

What marketers are concerned about is that consumers may rush to delete their details from databases, greatly impacting on the CRM process.

Meanwhile, website designers and strategists are concerned over the EU Cookie law which becomes law in May 2012. Basically, it means that websites will have to ask permission from visitors to use cookies. If visitors say no, this could adversely affect the statistics from Google Analytics and other tracking software.

This short video from SilkTide explains the situation very well.

Whatever happens in practice under the EU Cookie Directive and Data Protection proposals, an organisation’s relationship with their customers and potential customers will change.

Engagement will be critical – otherwise they may disappear for ever!

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Josh Hamit