Why You Need to Be Addressing User Data Management in Your PR Efforts

February 3, 2019 • Shannon Flynn


When people go online, they typically understand that websites collect their data for certain purposes. However, they may not know exactly how that information gets used. That could be problematic for digital marketers or those in the public relations field, so proper user data management strategies are essential.

Trust Levels Vary by Industry

Addressing how companies use information and manage it to ensure it stays safe is essential for any sector, but research shows customers are particularly doubtful that some industries use proper data management practices.

A 2018 survey showed 46 percent of people trust the financial industry to keep their details safe, but that percentage drops to only 8 percent in retail.

Regardless of industry, PR professionals can work hard to combat low levels of trust by releasing a dedicated statement about user data management. They should then call attention to it, such as in a company blog post or on social media feeds.

Data analytics company Verisk even placed a data responsibility commitment page in the “About Us” section of its website. It goes into detail about secure data storage, internal governance, transparency and more.

People can read that material at length to get many of their questions answered. Because Verisk collects data for a primary part of its business, it’s essential for the company to be upfront about its practices.

A Lack of Information About Data Usage Could Lead to Lost Customers

It’s common for third-party companies to buy customer data. Often, the disclosure that brands may sell it hides in fine print at the bottom of a form that people don’t read. However, they do not take kindly to the realization that brands used their information without their knowledge.

Even after the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, it didn’t give customers clarity about how companies use their data, according to an investigation. The research revealed that 48 percent of respondents did not understand how companies routinely use personal data. Even worse, only 18 percent thought companies are honest and transparent about data usage.

Google explains its privacy and data practices in straightforward language to make them more digestible. It also has a sidebar menu of various topics, allowing people to explore the parts that matter most to them. Having such information available is an excellent first step. However, a public relations campaign should also incorporate letting people know the content exists.

Google announced updates that let people control how the company uses its data on the company blog. It was also written in accessible language and included a link to a video on the matter.

If customers feel in the dark about data usage, they might have poor opinions about the relevant companies, as well as feel compelled to take their business elsewhere. Incorporating user data management into PR efforts could be good for companies in numerous ways, both in bolstering trust and retaining customer loyalty.

Reactive Strategies Could Falter

Another reason why it’s crucial to stay on top of user data management and publicize what a company does is that by not doing so, the brand may find itself in crisis. Facebook has had a troubling year in 2018, due in large part to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In case anyone needed evidence of how much progress Facebook needs to make in restoring user confidence, a survey conducted by an external company in July 2018 asked people to rank well-known brands according to how much they trusted them with their data. Facebook was the lowest-ranked company.

It has done things to be more transparent about how it uses data and gives people some control over aspects of it. However, a representative from the company said although trust is a top-of-mind concern with the company, the hardest thing is educating people about the steps Facebook has taken to enact positive change.

Even if a company engages in a PR effort that doesn’t directly relate to misuse of data, it’s still essential for marketing professionals to speak frankly to customers about what they’re doing to keep data safe. Otherwise, without that feedback, customers may start to think the worst. Proactiveness helps people feel assured of good data stewardship.

It’s Ideal to Explain How a Company Uses Data

People may understandably become dubious if a company does not disclose why it needs certain kinds of data. However, if a marketing professional releases content that informs users that “We collect [kind of data] from you to provide highly personalized recommendations,” people can decide if such use seems legitimate and is something that makes them feel comfortable.

However, it’s often difficult for companies to give that level of detail about usage, particularly because brands still struggle to use collected information effectively. A report that polled executives about data use found although 59 percent felt data gave their organizations a competitive advantage, 49 percent felt their companies were somewhat or very effective at using data to drive strategies.

Once companies determine why they need data and how they will use it, it’s up to the public relations team to keep customers informed by using multiple channels to ensure the most reach. It’s not enough to assume customers will read lengthy terms of service agreements on their own.

PR experts can make the information both more visible and easier to understand by broadcasting it on the areas of a website customers visit most often.

User Data Management Honesty Is Key to Customer Trust

People are especially aware of how companies collect data about them, and how that information could get breached.

However, marketers can stay on top of things by giving their audiences updated and easily understood information about what a company takes and for what reasons. That should lead to higher levels of trust over time.