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Viewpoint: How to truly reach your audience

06 July 2018 by

With GDPR in full effect, many operators are in a panic to make their methods of communication compliant. But as Peter Hancock explains, our options are open

As one leading hotelier said to me the other day, his eyes rolling skyward, there's always something, isn't there?

The something on this occasion was the mild wave of panic caused by new data protection regulations, which have forced businesses across the country to send millions of "please opt back in" emails to contacts they have accumulated over the years without necessarily having obtained the proper consent to push marketing messages to those people. Ironically, if they didn't have proper consent in the first place, they shouldn't have sent the emails, and if they did have consent, then those emails were completely unnecessary.

For hoteliers and caterers, it is the latest jolt to an already stressed industry and for some will have what at first glance appears a catastrophic effect on their ability to market themselves. Imagine wiping out more than half of your customer database on a single day. Perhaps it has happened to you? The only consolation is that it will have affected lots of your competitors too.

Please forgive me for feeling a little smug here but, thanks to a pure stroke of luck, Pride of Britain engaged the services of a data management company several years ago and so we do not have the consent issues that are concerning many others. Nonetheless, the whole saga is making us all consider how best to communicate with our customers if email is no longer de rigueur.

The fact is we are really spoilt for choice. To pick a random handful of alternative methods, we have PR, magazine advertising, direct mail, radio, bloggers, pay per click, social media, TV, sponsorship, exhibiting at events, newspaper advertising, brand partnerships, affiliation with groups, affiliation with online travel agents, website links, guide recognition, talking to guests… I could go on.

It is interesting how the use of quality print has gradually slumped, making the few letters and brochures most people receive stand out and impress. At the luxury end of the market, print has never really gone away. Now let's consider a world in which your customers receive, say, one tenth of the number of unsolicited emails they did before GDPR. Suddenly, the ones they get become more powerful. It's a win for every company that has followed the rules and an opportunity over the coming years for everyone else to start capturing data they can use.

Of course, there is one highly reliable way of getting your message in front of the right people with no data security issues at all. That is to write articles for a reputable publication such as The Caterer. Whether you are happy to continue to receive these messages or not, they will keep on coming until the editor says "enough!"

Peter Hancock is the chief executive of Pride of Britain hotels

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