Turning the GDPR into Good PR

We’ve done a lot of writing recently about the versatility of white papers and how they can be the foundation of focused content marketing initiatives. The newly instituted GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) actually makes them even more versatile,  giving marketers an effective, time-tested means of acquiring emails that are GDPR-compliant.

As most readers know, the EU GDPR applies to any business that collects any personally identifiable data (such as an IP address from which personal identity can be adduced). This applies to all companies within the EuropeanUnion, and to US-based businesses interacting with EU companies. According to GDPR guidelines, any email address that you collect, the person’s consent to the collection and use of that email address must be a “freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

A downloadable white paper available to anyone who opts in – per the requirements above – nets you a GDPR-approved contact. But bear in mind that the consent provided applies only to what you’re offering in exchange. So if you’re offering a single white paper, you can’t use that same email to send that person another solicitation at another time. But what you can do is offer a series of white papers and acquire a one-time consent that will give you the necessary cover to use those emails to send other white papers in the series as they are made available (for instance, you can offer a quarterly white paper in a series and send each when it’s available). Your opt-in language needs to be explicit and reflect GDPR standards – the person on the other end needs to have a clear understanding of what they are consenting to.

Of course, the challenge is getting people to your website, and once there, giving them the incentive to provide their personal data in exchange for a…report. But getting them there is another topic for whole other series of blog posts. As is identifying topics and laying out themes that will get people to take notice and make them more apt to download – and read! – your white paper.

However, it is important to make sure that your white paper is more than a marketing document. This is sound advice for any white paper in almost all circumstances, but particularly so as the GDPR makes the public more protective of its data and more aware of the value marketers place on it. In this new climate, most people will want to receive something of real value in exchange for consenting to give up even the smallest piece of personal information. Make it compelling, timely, specific, grounded, and practical. Convince your reader that no one – no one – knows this topic as thoroughly and sees their issues with such startling clarity.

The GDPR is a pain to navigate and will make each opt-in email hard won. At the same time, it forces you to create a tighter, weightier product that will ultimately have a weightier impact.


Click here for more on BackBone’s turnkey white paper service.

The Road to Wellness Begins on the Weekend

Excerpt from our latest NSFW Column:

We know the reasons they (corporate wellness programs)  fall short: rewards lead to temporary gains; people don’t have the time or incentive; and poor program design fails to get at foundational behaviors. The cool apps and trackers soon lose their novelty and appeal, and in the “can’t blame them” category, some chuck rather than be hounded by their numbers all day long. In light of all this, I have a modest suggestion:  Companies would be wise to get out of the wellness business during business hours and move the focus to the weekend, a time when they have the least control, but wellness programs may actually do the most good.

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corporate wellness

Shades of Grey: the Problem with White Papers

How do you define a white paper


More than two-thirds of all marketers—71% (Content Marketing Institute) —use white papers as a part of their toolkit. But how do you define a white paper? What exactly is it? 

Ask three people and you’re likely to get five different responses. This is because there is no such thing as a definitive white paper. The definition varies from industry to industry, even company to company; it can be just about any length, take a variety of forms, and cover a range of topics. 

That said, most of us know one when we see it: a 4-12 page pdf (sometimes shorter, sometimes longer) that you can access once you prove that you are not a robot. It will say “white paper” on the cover page and advance a business case or proposition with recourse to visuals illustrating salient data points and trends. Beyond this, white papers can – and do – vary widely.

The term “white paper” was coined by the British to describe a type of official government report. Today, they have become popular marketing tools for companies to advance a specific position or solution to a problem. The goal is to inform and persuade as they lead readers toward an inexorable conclusion…and a complementary set of practical recommendations.

While  there is no such thing as the definitive white paper, there are general principles that we can apply based on what works and what doesn’t in making them maximally effective.  See the White Paper on White Papers for more.