Christian Schmidt in conversation with Clap Magazine (The people magazine of the communications industry)
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is in force. The media industry is particularly concerned about sending newsletters. Often those who want to act particularly correctly. Real spammers will unfortunately not care about the new rules. In recent weeks, many reputable media companies have once again asked their recipients for written confirmation of receiving their newsletters. But that is often wrong, says Christian Schmidt, CEO of the well-known email marketing service provider CleverReach®. Despite all the adversities this law brings with it, he urges us to remain calm. Quite a different tone compared to all the hysteria going on lately.
Clap: In recent weeks, well-known companies from the communications industry have sent out a request to their newsletter recipients to subscribe again using double opt-in. Probably to be on the safe side. Why do you think that is completely unnecessary or even dangerous?
Schmidt: This is a misunderstanding, unfortunately with considerable consequences. I recommend not to send the new double opt-in email once again. For a simple reason. It may destroy my mailing list, the most important value of the company. Customers from whom I have properly collected the data, who overlook this email or for other reasons do not confirm it, because they are annoyed by the many new queries, although they are still interested in your content, may wonder why the communication comes to an end. In addition, they destroy the company’s success through gross negligence and may not be aware of its scope and responsibility.
Clap: Probably just because of the fear of making a mistake?
Schmidt: Well, just because the penalties for traffic offences have been increased, that doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly repeated the driving test. What many people don’t know is that hardly anything changes. The old Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) overlap in many areas, as we have always had the strictest data protection in Germany and Europe. In addition, the new rules aim at vandalism. The Bavarian State Commissioner for Data Protection, for example, states recently: “With the entry into force of the General Data Protection Regulation (25 May 2018), the consents that are effective under current data protection law will not become “automatically” ineffective. Even if they do not comply in every respect with the requirements of the General Data Protection Regulation.
Rather, recital 171 of the GDPR clarifies that, in many cases, data controllers can continue processing based on consent obtained before the GDPR came into force”. Who already obtained the consents of their recipients to receiving newsletters thus in conformity with the law before GDPR entered into force e.g. by Double-Opt-in, acts roughly negligently, if he demands this consent now again. This is illegal and not permitted in all other respects if recipients had not consented before! So, they have already acted correctly according to both the old and the new law; the user’s consents are and remain in conformity with the law.
Clap: So, what happens if I ask my recipients to double opt-in for the second time?
Schmidt: Most people will find this email redundant or annoying and delete it without confirmation or simply overlook it. And the beautiful, laboriously constructed mailing list is already shrinking! Not opening an email or not confirming again, does not mean no interest in further messages! Customer contact data is a relevant valuable capital of a company that is destroyed by these panicky reactions of fear, uncertainty or incorrect advice without sense and reason.
Clap: You turned to your customers with a personal video and warned them urgently of making the wrong decisions. Can you still understand the general panic that has flared up?
Schmidt: Of course, I can understand that many companies are currently uncertain about the GDPR. The media support and polarize this uncertainty. With our internal data protection expert and our external data protection officers, we have luckily always attached great importance to higher standards than required by law. CleverReach has for many years sensitized its customers to recipient-oriented, legally compliant address collection and uses high standards, so that not much has changed for them. Incidentally, I would advise all companies to do so: Call in a specialist instead of researching the Internet on your own initiative and maybe drawing the wrong conclusions. That’s like when I google and ask for a diagnosis instead of asking the doctor for advice. I can diagnose myself immediately and always terminally ill. I feel the same way about the GDPR. On-line I find contradictory information, especially with the topic data security. The authorities themselves are not prepared and are definitely overwhelmed. We have set up a consultation hour especially for our customers on this subject because we want to be helpful. Again: it is important to keep calm!
Clap: Why did the communication around the new rules get so out of control?
Schmidt: Is that so? In the last weeks we have all received mails from companies, online shops, clubs etc. in our professional or private mailbox. We were asked to click on a confirmation button and give our consent to receive the newsletter again. This has triggered a classic chain reaction: “What? They do that? Then we have to do that, too”, so to speak. That’s human. At the last minute, under pressure, to some people it may seem too inconvenient to check under which conditions the addresses were obtained and whether everything is correct. It seems more convenient to simply send an email to all recipients. According to the motto “Better to secure and destroy customer data than to admit that I did a good job in the past.”
Clap: Are there companies that have signed off because of the fear of GDPR regulations?
Schmidt: We are experiencing a disproportionate influx, for example from customers who were previously with providers such as MailChimp, a competitor based in the USA. Those who have complied with the CleverReach rules so far are well positioned. The documentation of user consents is and was already included with our software, for example when using the DOI procedure of CleverReach.
Clap: Do you fear sales losses because the recipient lists of some of your customers have become noticeably smaller?
Schmidt: On the contrary, sales are currently developing more exponentially than ever. CleverReach customers are well advised thanks to our excellent customer service.