Taming the Data Protection Beast

The travel industry is the latest sector to make the headlines over breaches of data management.  British Airways is appealing a fine of £183 million, imposed by the UK’s Information Commissioner, after what BA called a “sophisticated, malicious criminal attack” on its website in 2018. 

The BBC reports (09 July 2019) “The UK’s data privacy regulator has said it plans to fine the US hotel group Marriott International £99.2m.  The penalty relates to a data breach that resulted in about 339 million guests having had their personal details exposed. The incident is thought to date back to 2014 but was only discovered in 2018.”

The size of these penalties reflects the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into force in 2018.  Such penalties under the UK’s previous 1998 Data Protection Act were limited to a maximum of £500,000.  Under GDPR, fines can be as high as 4% of turnover. 

Comprehensive guidance on data protection obligations and systems is available on the ICO web site.

Data delivers delight

In event management, our aim is always to ensure that every individual participant gains as much enjoyment and value as possible from the experience.  The private information requested (from contacts to dietary restrictions and a few more details in between) is primarily used to make participation in the event safe, stress-free and rewarding.

Working with partner suppliers, including airlines and hotel companies, is an integral part of live events.  These include domestic and international meetings or conferences, hospitality and awards events, incentive travel, product launches and other business events.  Whether the event involves employees, channel partners, suppliers or customers, the same common-sense methods must be used in the planning and administration of the event process.  The data protection guidelines from the ICO are an essential item on the preliminary event planning checklist. 

As an agency providing marketing communications and business-building activities for corporate clients, we take data security seriously.  Nevertheless, the aim must to be tame this tiger by using available data to carefully assess the interests and expectations of the client’s target community.  That way we can more accurately reflect people’s interests, concerns, values and ambitions in the style and content of each event. 

Data determines success

Return on investment from events should be assessed not only in terms of expenditure by the client, but also in terms of time spent for the participants.  The prime purpose of live events is to affect behaviour, as that in turn leads to different outcomes.  Using the Event ROI methodology enables us to work with our clients on setting objectives for every event and measuring results against pre-determined targets.  This “data” is about attitudes and intentions.  It provides a broad indication of the direction and priorities which a client organisation should take to achieve the desired business results.

Live events are not all about cold facts and statistics; they are most effective at inspiring teams or groups and galvanising them into action.  The vision and excitement transmitted by a live event can be a catalyst for change and a launch-pad for progress.  The data that determines success comes later, showing increased efficiency, growth in sales, higher satisfaction ratings, greater loyalty, stronger brand recognition, improved profitability and an enhanced reputation.

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