Eye on Privacy: Will Privacy Efforts Survive Budget Cuts?
You're on your third round of budget cuts and your fifth cup of coffee. You're asking yourself, "Can I really afford privacy compliance in this economy?"
You'll thank yourself later.
We're all in the same financial dilemma, so here are some tips for maintaining your privacy compliance—and maybe improving it—without tanking your budget.
1. Use your Direct Marketing Association membership and explore the organization's Web site. There is a wealth of information there to help you do your job.
The DMA tracks legislation affecting marketers. It works with lawmakers to shape legislation that will benefit consumers without obliterating your marketing efforts. It communicates the progress of federal and state bills. Trying to do this work yourself seems overwhelming, but reading and responding to these DMA updates is feasible. Subscribe to the association's Triple Bottom Line Bulletin and to Politically Direct to stay current on the regulatory environment.
The DMA provides self-regulation recommendations for marketers called Guidelines for Ethical Business Practice. They are a great source of policies and practices for your staff to follow. These guidelines are on the association's Web site along with "Do The Right Thing" commentary, which provides explanations and examples.
The DMA also provides free webinars on a variety of topics. Why spend time and money traveling when many courses are offered for free?
2. Share training with your clients or service providers. Let's face it, training is expensive. And, whether you've developed classroom instruction or computer-based courses, you've invested time and money. Most likely, your business partners—both clients and service providers—have done the same. Think how much more efficient it would be if we shared our efforts.
If you are a data provider, you probably train your staff on accessing, storing and transferring the data in a compliant manner. This training also would benefit companies that use your data. The same is true for marketers using third-party processors for their customer files. Their staff training on file protection also would benefit their service providers.
If you need training in a particular area, you may find it among your business partners. Are you willing to share the training that you have developed with them?
3. Reconsider how you handle the responsibility for privacy compliance. Do you have one person handling the workload? Or is there a dedicated staff? Even if your compliance department is only one person (and that person wears many hats), there may be a way to be more efficient.
Consider combining the efforts of a few people, not only to spread the responsibility but also to provide a more balanced approach. A small council rather than a single czar could set policy, provide training and oversee compliance requirements. A council should include people familiar with the marketing data and the marketing process, and someone who can get changes made quickly. The council leader should be at a level high enough to make decisions and to be held accountable if things go wrong. A council approach balances consumer choice and business needs better by involving people who understand the various components of the process. Rather than having a "compliance person" critiquing a process after it is built, you now have an opportunity to build compliance into the process.
Before I upset the chief privacy officers out there, let me say this approach probably works best if there is a CPO to make sure the council meets, policies get written and training is done. However, your output will be better when influenced by those who know the business best.
So, will privacy survive your budget cuts? You can't afford NOT to address privacy in any economy. Privacy and security have become the ticket to the game. Without them, you will not be in business for long. I hope these tips help as you move through your budget year. Privacy is not free, but there are ways to not only control the costs of compliance, but also improve the process along the way.