Go Public With Privacy

Protecting privacy on the Internet became a major issue in 2019, and figures to be even more important in 2020. Data breaches, ad tracking, misuse of personal data and other issues have rattled the public, justifiably so. To illustrate:

  • SelfKey reports that 2019 data breaches exceeded 5 billion records as of last November. As many of us know, stolen records include credit card numbers, home phone numbers and other sensitive data. While many data breaches occurred without much media fanfare, enormous attacks on major brands such as Capital One and Evite raised public awareness — and fear.
  • Major news outlets (NBC News in this case) regularly report on online privacy fears, with focus on data breaches and various ways advertisers abuse or misuse personal data. The story linked to above includes frightening stories about stalking and fraud.
  • Facebook, the world’s largest social media site, cannot stay out of the news when it comes to privacy abuse. The extent to which these issues will hurt Facebook is open to discussion, but without question the public scrutiny has taken public awareness to a whole new level.

Differentiate Your Small or Midsize Business 

Small or midsize companies with or without e-commerce websites have an excellent opportunity to get in front of privacy issues. If your company handles personal data ethically and with technical care — as most do — it can be talked about as an important customer benefit. Two or three years ago, your customers and prospects may not have cared. Today, they will. 

How do you make the privacy message part of your overall marketing message?

  • Do an internal audit and make sure you are handling personal data ethically and with technical care. 
  • Make sure your website’s privacy policy is thorough and written in plain English. The Better Business Bureau has a terrific resource to help, its Sample Privacy Policy. This document can also serve as a framework for your internal audit. 
  • Add brief, boiled-down privacy statements to your website’s contact page(s), shopping cart pages, and on any other forms, login pages or landing pages where customers and prospects enter personal data. To get an idea of how to write one, check out this primer from PrivacyPolicies.com.
  • Educate your sales and marketing teams on privacy issues and how to talk about them with customers and prospects. Arm them with slide presentations, brochures, email content and other tools to help them communicate your company’s commitment to protecting privacy online.

Emphasizing privacy may not cause orders to magically fall from the sky, but privacy could be a crucial tiebreaker when the order comes down to you and a competitor. Furthermore, emphasizing privacy enhances your company’s image in a larger sense, conveying to the market that you put customers first and understand the need for balance between business generation and security.

If you haven’t considered moving in this direction, 2020 would be a great year to start the ball rolling.

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