Friday, 20 April 2018

Keeping in contact

Keeping in contact

It is not very often that I find myself at a bleak chain hotel, in an equally bleak but additionally, soulless conference room with a podium at one end, giant presentation screen above it and sitting at a 'break-out' tables. The presenters, young and enthusiast both, from a hip marketing agency tried to make it fun but frankly the topic for which we were gathered, GDPR, doesn't encourage high fives.

In one of those marvellous moments which must make any presenter wonder why they even got out of bed that morning Steve (might not have been his name, but I forget, so let's go with that for now) lobs out an easy question by way of an icebreaker: what is GDPR? Now everyone in the audience knew precisely what it meant. Why else would we have dragged ourselves to this depressing room if we didn't? He probably hadn't factored in his target market for that particular morning: hard bitten, largely self-employed small business owners who were trying to navigate this latest bit of EU legislation. He probably thought we were being sullen, all crossed arms and non-responsive. We actually just wanted him to get on with it. Mercifully he gave up without a fight, bringing up the first slide of the day:

The event, though that makes it sound it bit more of a happening that it was, had been arranged by the Southern Tourist Board (STB) which is one of those strange organisations that I've been a member of for nearly thirty years. Most of the time it just lurks in the background occasionally trying to sell you space in tourist publications, share the cost of a stand at a trade show or include you in a press visit. It is the nuts and bolts end of leisure marketing, not hugely exciting, but important nonetheless and when, to their credit, some overarching bit of regulation appears over the horizon, the STB leaps into action.

I am not sure why GDPR has put the fear of God into so many people. Maybe it is the fact that it seems to have crept up on us all of a sudden. I am sure it has been discussed in Brussels for years but only recently has it appeared in business consciousness. The unlimited fines for transgressors are scary - it is quite possible for a firm to be bankrupted. And, with spooky timing with all the Facebook issues, use of personal data has become a hot topic.

Essentially, from my perspective at least, the new legislation seems generally easy to navigate. Firstly, we have to store all the data you have ever given us to complete a booking - name, address, phone numbers etc. - safely. One hotelier completely floored Steve when she asked whether keeping her written records in her attic complied; I am not sure he understood that there was an age, not so long ago, when things were written down. Aside from that time-warp anomaly none of that is particularly contentious. It is your email addresses that has everyone in a stir.

Essentially in the past once someone had your email address they could pretty well do with it what they liked: sell, use it, pass it on and hold it forever. You might not have wittingly submitted to this use but by virtue of a tick box you did or did not tick or some clause buried in the Terms & Conditions your email details (and possibly more) was potentially out there. But from 25/May these practices are outlawed: it is all about consent. In the future you will have to give the holder of your email address your consent to use your email address. Of course, once you get into the detail, it is horribly more complicated than that but really the question many of us are wondering is whether it will have any effect? My gut feeling is yes; over time we will all notice a gradual reduction in the amount of emails we receive. Hurrah you might well say but I have a feeling it might hit small businesses the hardest who, without the benefit of huge marketing budgets, have been the most savvy, and generally least intrusive and least exploitative, users of direct email. Let me sketch it out from my side of the fence.

You've fished with us for a few years, a regular client who generally books in January for May. Over the years you have come to rely on us emailing you by way of a nudge when the booking season comes around. It works for you. It works for us. However, from 25/May I won't be able to send that nudge email unless you have specifically consented to receive it. If it is a verbal consent we will have to make a written note. If it is electronic consent you will have to click on a link. Now I suspect for us this is going to be reasonably easy to navigate. Our relationship with you is generally quite personal so one way or another we'll make it work. But I can easily see for other businesses who have a larger number of smaller transactions, where the interaction is less one-to-one, this is going to be a problem. Over time that contact list of thousands built up over years will be eroded away because as consumers we have not only become tired and suspicious of email marketing, but we are generally hopeless at being proactive so in the absence of the sign-up being done on our behalf we probably will not do it ourselves.

And that will make life more difficult, especially on small businesses who don't have considerable marketing budgets or clout. Larger business will likely return to traditional media - TV, magazines etc. - to capture new, old, lapsed or dormant customers but for the rest of us it is going to be a lot harder. And that is a great shame for I'm sure the EU legislation was meant to have precisely the opposite effect.

A good pub for lunch

On the topic of small business, the Countryside Alliance announced their regional finalists for the annual Rural Awards a while back, which they like to term the rural Oscars which to me is a bit of a stretch and frankly, the less we associate with Hollywood the better. I know the red carpet types like to burnish their eco-credentials but it is slightly at odds with the NetJets data who peg Oscar weekend as their busiest of the year with 250+ plus private planes arriving in LA.

Energy drinks for fishing
I don't think the overall winners have been selected (don't book that jet to London!) as yet, but ahead of that I'd like to pass on congratulations to two of the pubs (a new category for this year) that regularly feature on our lunchtime fishing circuit.

The Boot at Houghton has a garden that goes right down to the banks of the River Test and is just a hop, skip and a jump from Stockbridge. If you are in the Avon valley The Swan is tucked away in Enford; it has long been a favourite of mine.

If I had to have a bet my money would be on the Cornish firm Green & Blue, run by ex Dyson designers who create beautiful, stylish products that help wildlife. The Beepot Concrete Planter and Bee House is both as beautiful as it sounds intriguing, providing a home for solitary bees in search of a swarm.

You may read more about the awards, the winners in your area and a map of where the finalists are located via this link.

To release or not to release?
The Environment Agency have issued a consultation document proposing compulsory catch and release for all salmon on rivers that will be on the 'at-risk- register as of 2021 with the new regime taking effect in June of this year.

It prompted the Countryside Alliance, who object to the proposal, to run a Facebook poll to gauge public opinion. 68% in favour, 32% against. I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Personally it wouldn't bother me one way or another but I know for some people taking a fish home is the definition of fishing and I understand that point of view.

I think the problem with the EA proposal is that it introduces an element of compulsion that doesn't rest easy on our sport. We pride ourselves in being guardians of the rivers we use and with 90% of fish already released the job is pretty well already done.

With angling participation in decline alienating another group of people with a ban of doubtful gain, when so many other major problems assail our salmon rivers, looks to me like virtue signalling.

You may read more about the consultation via this link.

CHALK on the road
If you'd like to catch up with CHALK we are on the road next week as part of the One Fly Festival with a special screening in Stockbridge.

The film is showing the The Grosvenor Hotel. Doors open (i.e the bar) at 7pm with the show starting at 7.30pm on Friday April 28th. Tickets £15 on-line. 

As a little amuse-bouche here is a unique directors cut that was made for one of our major supporters to celebrate his day at Bullington Manor. 

Click on this link and log in with password: kickstarter123


More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect.  Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page.

1)      What do the initials SIM, as in your SIM card phone, denote?

2)      Which is which: bumble bee or wasp? Vespula vulgaris. Bombus hortorum.

      What year did Georgina Ballantine (pictured) catch her record salmon?

Enjoy an August weather weekend!

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 

Founder & Managing Director

Quiz answers:

1)      subscriber identity module
2)      Vespula vulgaris wasp. Bombus hortorum bee
3)      1922

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