I wrote this article in early 2017 and re-reading it I can see that it was a bit of a rant, however with GDPR coming into effect in late May 2018 it is still relevant. So with a bit of an update here it is again.

When I started my business I had four ways to connect with other people. I could pick up the phone (landline), write, meet them in person or send a fax (remember those?). That’s all. Choosing a communications strategy was quite straightforward. If we needed an audit trail or were introducing ourselves to a potential lead we wrote, we might follow that up with a phone call and then arrange to meet in person. If we needed to get a document to someone in a hurry we’d probably use the fax.

We knew when the post would come in and could schedule time in the day to deal with it, we planned our meetings to suit our priorities and the only real interruption came from unexpected phone calls. If we were high enough up the food chain even those could be filtered by a personal assistant or secretary. How life has changed!

I want an answer now!

Emails and mobile phones came along and with it an expectation of an immediate response. So in came electronic privacy regulations to stop people harassing others with unsolicited phone calls and emails. The marketers’ toolbox was screwed down again and then came social media.

Social media is great because it allows us to build relationships with others online and in our own time. But I think social media is now being abused by many. Messaging and Whats App have taken over in the ‘I want your attention now’ space. People ping you a message at 11.00 o’clock at night or 6.00 in the morning because they can. And if you haven’t responded within a few hours they want to know why. They say, ‘I know you’ve seen my message so why haven’t you replied!’

Do you have my permission?

I use Whats App as a way of staying in touch with my kids; the ability to see that my son has been online reassures me that he’s still alive when he hasn’t called home from university for some time. If my phone pings in the middle of the night I check it in case one of them is in trouble, that’s all. I don’t want to see your emojis or cat videos, I’m not even interested in your good ideas at that time. So just because you can ping me a message it doesn’t mean you should.

I use Facebook messenger for a private conversation with someone who has asked permission, or with friends. I frequently have Facebook open during the day and I might have a quick look when a message comes in but that doesn’t mean I’ve read it, considered it or am ready to respond, whatever Facebook is telling you.

It’s the same with email newsletters. Just because I gave you my card at a networking event doesn’t mean that you can add me to your mailing list and even if I said you could send me your newsletter it doesn’t mean I want one or more every day! It certainly doesn’t mean I want an email from you telling me I’m being stupid for not accepting your offer yet. In fact that kind of approach sends me straight to the unsubscribe button and woe betide you if you haven’t got one!

I have my own priorities

please don't interrupt me

I’m working on my agenda, it may not be the same as yours.

I am busy. Very busy. I plan my day and I frequently overcommit, it’s the way I am and it’s the way I achieve a lot. I work on my agenda and that includes my clients’ priorities. Clients are allowed to contact me with urgent messages because they pay me for my help. I will respond to a client as soon as I can although if I’m working on another client’s priorities it might not be until that job is complete. Everything else has to wait.

When I send an email to a client I expect a response in a reasonable timescale so we can make progress. If I need an immediate answer I will call or message, whichever the client prefers. When I send an email to a contact I am grateful if they open it and thrilled if they respond. However I ‘get’ that we may not share an agenda and that they have other priorities. I may try other ways to communicate but in a gentle way, maybe joining in a Facebook conversation or tweeting a link to an invitation or an article.

I understand that just because I could Whats App or Message them doesn’t mean I should. I want to keep our communication channels open because one day my message may just be the right one at the right time and if they’ve unsubscribed, unfriended or blocked me then they’ll never see that message.

Think before you violate my space.

So please think very carefully about how you communicate with your contacts, leads, prospects, customers, suppliers and associates. Choose a communication channel that they will welcome and don’t expect an immediate or even quick response to something that is on your agenda but may not be on theirs.

The impact of the GDPR

If you do business in Europe, including the UK, then you will need to comply with new stricter data control measures. In the UK these are known as the General Data Protection Regulations (abbreviated to GDPR) and the effective date is May 25th 2018. This means amongst other things that you will need an individual’s permission to contact them and they must give informed consent. Informed consent means that you have to be transparent in explaining how you will use their data. The regulations apply to digital and physical data management so do check out how they will apply to your business.

What do you think? How do you prefer to receive information? What makes you unsubscribe, unfollow or block in double quick time?