With the looming May 25th deadline, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) will be front of mind for all forms of marketers, from digital leads to field marketers. Content marketers will also be affected by the requirements of this new law, which seeks to protect the personal data of European consumers. This new era of heavily regulated personal data will impact content marketing in the following ways:

  • New privacy rules for B2B as well as B2C. The biggest upheaval the GDPR brings to B2B marketing is that data collected from B2B buyers might fall within the scope of the regulation. These rules, therefore, apply to activities that were excluded from the GDPR’s precursor (the Data Protection Directive). So whether you are producing content for B2B or B2C, the same rules now apply when processing personal data for marketing activities.
  • Increased scrutiny of the content marketing ecosystem. Any partners involved with content production, syndication, and amplification will also need to be compliant with GDPR rules, due to the joint liability provision. Crucially, this applies not only to European entities but any firms globally that support content marketing in Europe.
  • Increased scrutiny of data sources. Under the GDPR, firms will have to document and prove the lawful purpose for which data was collected and processed, which places restrictions on data-centric content. All personal data used for the creation or distribution of content will need to be assessed on whether it can now be used under an appropriate legal basis — either “legitimate interests” or consent from consumers, with proper documentation in both cases. The use of third-party data, therefore, will become more problematic and require additional vetting and monitoring.
  • Increased administrative burden on lead-generation activities.  You will need to cover your (lawful) bases to capture leads through your content distribution methods (gated downloads, for example). “Legitimate interest” and “unambiguous consent” are the two legal bases most likely to apply to lead generation. While your lead-generation efforts are likely to go unhindered, identifying and recording the right legal basis for all data collection and processing will increase the administrative burden associated with these activities.
  • New hurdles between content and target audience. Campaigns aimed at building traffic and audience data to guide display ad units will become limited as well. Cookie collection will continue to require consent as it does today, but how this consent is given could well be strengthened under the upcoming ePrivacy Regulation. The GDPR also requires that organizations adapt their practices to the new requirements when they engage in behavioral targeting, predictive modeling, and cross-device recognition, which could make audience modeling more difficult in the future. This will also hold true for native content promotion campaigns if these techniques are used to serve sponsored content amongst contextual editorial. Content will have to work harder to reach the right viewers at the right time on the right platform.

But it is not all bad news. Although this may seem like a total overhaul, the “lean and clean” data environment fostered by the new laws will ultimately shift your content strategy toward nurturing and converting quality leads rather than engaging in a numbers game. This shift means that you will need to redesign the metrics you use to measure the success of content campaigns in the post-GDPR environment. Simultaneously, you will need to reset expectations in the organisation regarding the new measures of success for content marketing.

To mitigate the immediate upheaval, however, take the following steps to ensure compliance and continued success for your campaigns:

  1. Take an active role in your firm’s preparations for GDPR. As our research shows, the future of marketing and advertising under GDPR will revolve around effective data management. For a content marketer, it is crucial to stay in step with your firm’s overall strategy and to support the evaluation and amendment of current databases and systems of data collection, storage, and processing.
  2. Evaluate all external content partners. Due to the joint liability provision of the GDPR, it is critical to evaluate the network of partners involved in every aspect of your content strategy, from survey providers to media brands used for amplification. Again, collaboration with other parts of your organization will be necessary, particularly legal, risk, and compliance.
  3. Produce high-quality, digestible content to reach the unengaged. Content will continue to play a key role in reaching prospects lower down in their buyer decision journeys. These audience segments, who are not already engaging with the brand, would have previously been reachable through behavioural targeting, for example. Earned media and social media will rise in significance in this instance, making it an even stronger imperative to produce high-quality, “newsworthy,” and relevant content.
  4. Be bold with digital formats. As our research has shown, the boundary between B2B and B2C customers is increasingly blurry, particularly when it comes to content consumption habits. The B2B consumer not only expects personalized content and contextual dialog, but expects this content to be readily accessible. Digital formats are already disrupting the content marketing sphere, and the significance of interactivity will rise. For content marketers, therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to the “digital experience” of your content. The silver lining offered by the GDPR is that you will be able to consensually capture insights on the preferences and behaviors of those who engage with your content, enabling you to nurture high-quality leads while delivering the seamless digital experience your audience seeks.