Today on The GDPR Series podcast, our focus is data protection and privacy compliant marketing.  I chat with an expert marketing strategist about positive, permission-based marketing and how the personal data of your customer is a gift from them to you.  Besides some great discussion on the principles underpinning data protection – the GDPR – (and privacy), we have a bit of a chat about some marketing history and how strategies have evolved a little.  One certain book has been a bit of a revelation to me – completely missed that one!  Listen to find out more.

Our guest today is Finola Howard who is an exceptional, inspirational and gifted (yes, my opinion and many others!) brand builder, marketing strategist and thinking partner.  Finola can be found at  She is also the creator and founder of How Great Marketing Works ( which is an accessible and affordable online course that teaches businesses of all sizes how to build a marketing process that works for their business.

Current Offer from Finola:  Finola is running her ’30 Day Campaign Builder Program’ starting in March.  The cost of joining is $97 and $47 for members of the How Great Marketing Works course.  Sign Up Here for the 30 Day Campaign – 

Finola’s Links:

Philipa Farley:  Hi, and welcome to our podcast called the GDPR Series, where we discuss data protection, privacy and cyber security matters that ordinary people in everyday businesses face. We have a series of really interesting and lovely guests, and we hope you enjoy listening.  Good morning, Finola! It’s so lovely to finally have you on the other side of the camera.

Finola Howard:  I know!  Thank you so much. I’m honoured to have another chat with you.

Philipa Farley:   Yeah, no, and this one should be a good one. I think people will really enjoy listening to it. I am going to share a screen with your website open. I just want to double check. Yeah, I’ve got Finola Howard and have How Great Marketing Works, so we can flip between the two, while I share the screen. Would you like to introduce yourself?

Finola Howard:  Oh, I’m so not used to introducing myself. Well My name is Finola Howard and I am a brand builder, strategic marketer, lover of all entrepreneurial things. I have a consultancy practice here in Ireland. And, I also have an online offering for small to medium-sized businesses to help them build better marketing processes, so that they can create the business they always dreamed of having. So I have two sides to my business: one to one work with my clients and for larger companies, and I also have an online offering for small to medium sized companies. So there you go, that’s me.

Philipa Farley:  And you are an amazing person to know. It’s really an honour to know you, and to be your friend and to have your input into business and access to your course. I’m just trying to change tabs here, it’s not changing so we’ll see what’s going on there later. I have been on your course, just so that everybody kind of knows. I have been on your course for two years now, yeah, I think about two years. And you know what, Finola? I’m still learning. Like, I dip in and out all the time, you might not realise it, but I go back on often. And I have my file of material, you know, your sheets and print out. And then obviously, I’m in the group, every now and then I don’t have too much time to be on social media these days, but really the way and, I’ve said this to so many people, the way that you think about marketing, and the way that you present it to us, who are not experts in it at all, is absolutely fantastic. And it just gives us such a fresh perspective on it, where in our space, privacy and data protection, marketing is kind of a bit of a dirty word. And I think people who are focusing on sales, specifically, really battle with it, because they don’t know, a lot of time where the boundaries are – there’s a lot of grey areas. Even though some people might say they’re black and white and well, they’re not really. And people are just lost at sea. Like, that’s the only way I can describe it. They’re lost at sea. So, I appreciate the provocation of thought that you bring to the space. And yeah, the thread of ethics that flows through it, because at the end of the day, when we’re trying to marry up different jurisdictions, like we look at marketing in, in the EU, South Africa, and Africa is this following quickly, where they have actually specifically written in direct marketing regulation into their Protection of Personal Information Act. Where the GDPR doesn’t have that it’s a separate directive at the moment and will be a regulation. So South Africa’s built direct marketing rules into their Protection of Personal Information Act. Canada has always been very strict. However, we have like the sort of the confusion there, that some people battle with when they get onto Canadian product that it’s a soft opt in, where we have to have that explicit consent given a lot of time. And then, we have the States, which is in a massive state of change at the moment. Yeah. So, when you’re building an online business, how, you know, how do you even begin to pull these threads together and do it the right way? And, we come back to the point of ethical marketing, you know, and I know that you can’t wait to share something with us. I sent you the questions and the first one is where you first came to grips with data protection and the GDPR. So I’d really love to hear

Finola Howard:   Well, you know, I’m a lover of all things marketing, even though it’s so frowned upon, but yes…

Philipa Farley:  It shouldn’t be frowned upon, because it’s an amazing message that all of us need to get out. So I’m going to tell you now not to be negative for now.

Finola Howard:  Well, I’m going to say my perspective on it is, this is the way or the engine that allows you to give the gift of your knowledge, your expertise, your services, your products to the world. This is the engine that brings it to your customer. That’s how I think of it.

Philipa Farley:  And, it’s amazing. Like, it just makes me feel it actually. And people who know me are going to laugh when they hear me say this, it makes me feel so good. When you say it like that, you know, because it’s…

Finola Howard:  Yeah, well, I’m very passionate about it. But what I want to share with you is when you sent me that question, right? I just went, when I first started thinking about it in this way, right? And I just want to put this on screen, for people a little bit. And it’s a book called Permission Based Marketing by Seth Godin. And, I said to myself, I’ve had this a really long time, and I knew I got it fairly new at the time. And it’s dated 1999.

Philipa Farley:  Wow. Wow.

Finola Howard:  Yeah. Wow. Yeah. And that’s the year I started in business.

Philipa Farley:  Wow.

Finola Howard:  So it’s from the very beginning. And also, previous to this, I want to share with you, I know about data permission and because I worked, one of my first jobs, and I mean at the lower level, and I did move through the business, and all the rest of it, but my starting job as a temp was sheets of paper with company names, and I had to find, I had to ring every number to find the phone numbers, those sheets of paper. So this is direct marketing. So it’s pre-Internet, pre-orders. Yeah, I was on the phone. It was just riveting work. But, I was like so I was you know, I was very young. It was one of my first jobs. Oh, yeah, fantastic sharing this. But anyway, my first job was, I had sheets and sheets of paper, and each on there was maybe 10 or 20 lines on it. And I had to ring these landlines and find out the job title and the person who had that job title in the business. Yeah. So it was, that’s how you build a list then. We didn’t have what we have now. Now the way of building relationships, offering value in exchange for the permission to speak to them. And what I wanted to share with you in this book when I opened it was this, and this is fabulous. Now I have to say, right, and it’s in this groundbreaking book and it’s in 1999. To me, it’s still groundbreaking, right? Four tests for permission based marketing, right? The first one is: Does every single marketing effort you create, encourage a learning relationship with your customers? Does it invite your customers to raise their hands and start communicating? Number 1, first test. Your second test. You’ll love this one. Do you have a permission database? Do you track the number of people who have given you permission to communicate with them? This is 1999. Number 3. I love this one. If consumers gave you permission to talk to them, would you have anything to say? Have you developed a marketing curriculum to teach people about your products? That’s my most favourite one, because we live and – I’ll talk about this more in a second – we live in a very fragmented approach to marketing. Yeah. Whereas if you think in terms of, I build a curriculum, and I build it through all my social media and my email, and at all my touch points, if I think of it as a curriculum, not a one shot deal, not an isolated event, then it’s much better. Last one. Four. Once people become customers, do you work to deepen your permission to communicate with those people?

Philipa Farley:  Yeah.

Finola Howard:  Yeah, so that’s where I learnt about it.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah.

Finola Howard:  It’s always my great example, in this book, is when you start communicating with the customer. It’s this idea of this whole marriage analogy. It’s used everywhere. I’ve probably used it with you before and it comes from this book. And because this is the one thing I really remembered so strongly from, which was: if you were going on a blind date, would you ask the person to marry you on that blind date? And, you would get permission to tell them a little bit more, then they would share something with you. It’s the back and forth. And each you it’s about having a relationship with a human being, not a computer.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, adding on to that, for me, has been, and I’m not sure because we’ve not really discussed ourselves out of, you know, work, the whole concept of vulnerability, Finola. You know, and and the message that Brene Brown puts out and I’m not like a Brene Brown evangelist or whatever, you know, I like to watch her to take the points that I need, but she has such salient points and she’s just herself, and adding that vulnerability into what you’re saying here, that permission to speak, please may I have permission to speak? And may I have permission to share my knowledge with you? Because I have presumed, maybe wrongly, that I kind of know from experience as well that I do have something to offer you that you will find useful. And I would like the opportunity, please, to just share that with you. You know, that vulnerability comes into it for a lot of people, because you’re not sure if what you have is worth enough for that person to give their time and attention to it. So, we revert back into this place of kind of anonymity. You know, and throwing out this vague, general message in our marketing. And, it’s kind of like a bit of a shotgun approach. We hope that somebody will respond, you know that it will stick somewhere. And somebody will come along saying: “Oh, you seem amazing and wonderful, and you’re the answer to all of my problems.” But we’ve basically said: “Do you want to come on my course?” And I’m speaking about myself here really, you know. So it’s like really getting deep down to their place and having that communication. And, I think, possibly what holds people back, is that absolute sort of panic when they realise they have to connect with other human beings in this way. You know,

Finola Howard:  Yes. Because I even remember, a few years ago, a good few years ago, talking to someone about giving them feedback on their website, and they had disabled comments on their site. I always find this really interesting and, and a lot of web developers, their default position is to disable comments on a site on a blog. And I’m like, why don’t you want your customer to talk back to you? Yeah. And the answer is I’m afraid of what they’re going to say. Yeah. Well, it was nothing bad, even if they hate what you do then nobody – well, I can’t say nobody – but even if they hate what you do, even if it’s something you don’t want to hear, even if your product is wrong, isn’t it better to know that? Isn’t it better to allow the market to tell you what it wants, so that you can do it better? Like, that’s so much more useful to you. I mean, this is about the sustainability of your business. That’s what yeah, like getting, allowing your customers to talk to you so that you can hear them. I know we’re very focused on like, I mean, my course says: marketing is your truth told. Great marketing is truth shared. And the first obstacle is for you to have the ability to tell your truth about what you do. And to tell it in a way that resonates with the customer. And that magic happens, is when they say: Yes! And now I want to tell others about it, yes!” And that’s where sharing comes in.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah.

Finola Howard:  But it is to trust, to trust, the dynamic of this journey. That part of the journey is to learn what you get right, in what you’re offering and what you’re saying and what you need to adjust, in what you’re offering and what you’re saying. If you allow both viewpoints in, you are better able to communicate more effectively, and more coherently with the right customer for you. Your customers want you to find them.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah, because this is the great divide now.

Finola Howard:  They want you to find them because they have a problem, that they want you to help them with. So, be found!

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, and you see now we get back to privacy and data protection. And I’ll use the term interchangeably here, because of the different jurisdictions that you work across and I work across, but also, the fact that some people listening might be B2C, where privacy is a concern, you know, as opposed to Data Protection more. I’m going to really confuse people with this, so don’t please don’t be confused with this, but the B2B space. You’re more than welcome to phone me and have a chat if you need to know what I’m talking about here. I’m sure Finola would be happy to take any people on board there. Okay, so like, this is now the Great Divide where okay, let’s go back to your moment where you first understood intrinsically, about what the GDPR was trying to put into law and their paralysis, the state of paralysis that some people are in in business, knowing that they they need to make sales, for their business to survive. And they just don’t know how to get to the point where a sale is made, because they think the law is stopping them from reaching out to customers. You know, there’s so many different ways that you can reach out and be found and I would strongly encourage people, you know, even if you’re not ready to engage with Finola, or somebody like Finola, if you don’t want to use Finola, your loss really. I’m just saying that, you know, go go on the courses that are offered. This course is amazing, and it takes you through how to take your customers through that journey.

Finola Howard:  Well, let me tell you something very interesting with you, right? Yeah, I’m in a Master Class, because I believe also in and, I want you to scroll back on this landing page here, which is my site courses on and I want to share this with you, which is I want you to go to the top of the screen, if you don’t mind. So I’m in a master class with other entrepreneurs from around the world fantastic Master Class which is called A Significant Year by a lady called Robin Rice, but in one of the sessions and we meet weekly, and it’s to obviously we want to create a significant year for ourselves, but, and one of the sessions I was doing I had a live webinar going on, so I missed my class. Right. So, and it is so interesting, right? It was in the end, one of the so we take turns in the Master Class, everybody talks about what work struggle or challenge they’re facing at the time. And one of the things that came up was the idea of marketing. Right. And I wasn’t in the room, so that was great giggles, and you know, phew, Finola’s not here, haha. So, it was very interesting, right? And it was a question of, do I have to, you know, this idea of marketing has become so negative right. And do I have to follow the formula that everyone follows for marketing, right? What happened for me was because we need to have the, we need to find ways to hear the voice of our customers, and truly listen to us without our egos in the way. That’s the important thing. So yes, we might not like to hear things we don’t want to hear. But, we need to hear the voice of our customers so we can do what we do better. As a result, of course, these calls are recorded. So I got to listen to an entire conversation, but the traditional view of marketing. By the way, marketing is often done, not always done, often done. And, as a direct result of that, of hearing the voice of my customer, customer without me in the room, I changed my landing page.

Philipa Farley:  Oh, yeah.

Finola Howard:  I changed my landing page from about how to build a marketing process to actually because I started to realise what I was listening, listening in, to the calls, because it’s part of my own learning, and writing and then yeah, this hurts, but oh my god, it’s gold. Yeah, this hurts, but oh my god, it’s gold. And it’s gold, because it allowed me to go take the extra moment that I needed to go deeper into my own message to the marketplace, because I heard my customer. What often happens when we hear our customer is that we actually hear ourselves. That’s really important because entrepreneurs are passionate, they come to the market with a solution, because it was something that bothers them and troubled them. And, in the course of the journey, we often forget our own truth. Or it gets distilled in some way because we adjust it, because we think we do things we should do. And everyone falls prey to that, including me. So, in this part, while I would be very clear on what I do, sometimes there’s adjustments because I can hear the voice of my customer, because I allowed my customer to speak to me because I listened in on that call. And because I remembered the feedback and the testimonials from so many people about this programme, I went, I need this tweak this tweak needs to happen, so that my story and my message is not only more resonant with my customer, but it’s actually more resonant with me. And, that has great power: to hear your customer. And I do think GDPR, data privacy, all of that stuff makes us pause before we interact. That is the value. That is the value to say, today I want to give value and I don’t want to do, what’s the danger that’s happening is this hesitancy, if the scared part is if I give the wrong if I contact them in the wrong way. I will damage the relationship, but it’s not.

Philipa Farley:  Or they’ll cut me off and I’ll never be able to speak to them again. It’s like an instant unsubscribe, No, leave me alone, you know.

Finola Howard:  But if you take your brain, take yourself into the space of the intention of building greater trust and actually building anticipation for what you communicate, that you build this relationship that, you know, and I found this with my own marketing, as well and with clients. That now, as I communicate as I more consciously communicate, the desire is to open the email that I sent.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. Yeah.

Finola Howard:  Because they won’t get a formula. They will get my voice, my truth, my intent to help them. My honest, authentic intent to provide value and to provide an answer to their problem. And if we go to that headspace, yeah, the legislation takes care of itself. Yeah,

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, no. You’re absolutely right Finola, but can I add one more thing on to that? It’s like, I think people get to a place of desperation as well, as I’ve said before, where they need to make a sale and they’re desperate to make that sale. So, there’s an underlying tone of buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, not like Cork people are on the telephone, you know, but “Buy, buy, buy, buy what I have!” And, sometimes people aren’t ready to buy, they need to be warmed up, you know, however you want to say it. You know, it’s that journey towards the marriage, but it really requires it requires a lot of self control to take those 10 steps back and to start giving people what they need, you know, instead of taking what you need,

Finola Howard:  Yeah, what I’ve found is there is more than one story and more than one message, that spins out from your core message, right? Yeah. Yeah. And I was working with a client on Friday, quite a large client and the approach that we were taking was you have time – this is the first thing I always say this ever, remember this: you have time.

Philipa Farley:  I read that in my diary, every single week, the last 18 months.

Finola Howard:  Yeah, but here’s the idea of how you are, we get happier with the time. And the time is because we are, we have death. Not only do we have depth as human beings, we also have depth as organisations, as companies, as businesses, I don’t care what size you are, you still, there is a depth and an identity around your business. Regardless of whether you’re a solopreneur, or a multinational, there is a depth and, if there is depth, then there are layers to your story. So, my approach and, even doing this last Friday with a client, was this idea of let us take those layers and just start to leak them out, share out one layer at a time. So that, we were talking about even that idea of the curriculum of sharing the story of your product. That’s one later, crack that single layer first. And where your intention is to create a sandwich of all the layers of your story. Yes, the layer one might be that you, if you are using Serity, which is your wonderful product, the layer one is to actually, you know, all the different parts of that puzzle that you can tell. So you might have, how to sign up, it might be out how much it costs, it might be, what you can expect to happen. It might be the preparation for getting yourself GDPR already. It might be all these small little stories, just one layer, that make a  lovely sandwich, all these stories. And the wonderful thing about social media, and about email and anything else, is that we have space to share the layer. So you could, if you are doing your scheduling for your social media and all the rest, right? Is to batch produce all of the different parts of these layers, create them, because if it is a product that is clearly, I mean, they are moved, but there’s some core things that stay the same. This is a layer of evergreen content that you put across all your social media. You figure what is in my curriculum, remember, you may also want to put that layer out four times a year; I’m going to do a webinar on how to do it right. And I would do that in that layer. That’s my education layer. I may have another layer which is about so for example, I know I did in my education layer at the start of this year, I did a webinar that was how to plan for success when you just hate planning. Arising from that, I know because it was appropriate. Arising from that, because that was the idea now, was consumer generated content. Right. Members in the program have said that, I mean, it came up in the programme. I said: “Oh, yeah, look, you know, would it be great if we could just, if I could do a walk along, a ride along cars campaign with you? Build a campaign along with you?” And everyone said: “Yes!” Like so, one of my things around here is: how do you create a space for your customer to share with you what they want, not just you do your layer of what you want to reach out and tell them, but maybe there’s a layer where you say, come tell me what you want? And so, as a result of having this ability to have a two way communication with my customers, I’m now rolling out a new programme, which is a 30 day campaign ride along, that we’re going to do from March because that’s not what I thought of, that’s what Customer told me they wanted.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah yeah. And, Finola, like going, I am going to bank one point there, and just going, building on what you’re saying here because I think last year, beginning of last year was kind of where I started more concentrating on the strategic thinking that’s needed in a business and the strategic planning that’s needed in a business, as opposed to just servicing clients’ needs. People that don’t know me, my business started in a very kind of reactive way. Can you help me with this? Yes, I can. Okay, and it just started this ongoing rolling ball of: “Can you help me do this? Can you help me? Can you help me with this?” So yes, while we were doing very well, I was very tired, rundown, no time, not giving the best of myself to people. And I very quickly pulled myself away at that point, because I’m a slight bit of a perfectionist and I don’t like to think that I, you know, I’m not being of service to somebody that I work with. So I had to take a big step back and go, wow, okay, this has to change. And now I’ve actually got to do a company, and do all these things like I mean, I’ve got this book, The 10 day MBA, it’s also a pretty old one on my shelf. I don’t know if I got it in South Africa, it might have been published here. But books like that, you know, with the good solid business principles in, that was my go to. And then going on a couple of courses where, like your Mastermind, you are forced to stick to a schedule, and you have to put that time aside for that strategic thinking that goes into the business. So, if you go back to GDPR, and marketing, if you’re going and you’re just reacting to the marketplace, and what your customers are saying, not reacting to what your customers are saying, but reacting to what everybody else, your competition is doing, because I think competition analysis does trigger this in some people. Oh, God, that one’s done a course and, oh god that one’s written a book, I’d better go and do all of these things. You know, you’re not putting the value that your customers need into the information and the perspective.

Finola Howard:  I look at it as a way to shine the light on your difference.

Philipa Farley:  Okay, yeah, that’s beautiful.

Finola Howard:  Yeah, absolutely. Because and I do this, you know me, I’m very methodical, and I like my, you know, see it really clearly. And it’s that and, I actually have a blog post about this, but it’s also part of the programme anyway, which is, you look at consistent components of your, of your competitor and you tabulate it in such a way, that this white space where they aren’t is where you are.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I can’t find that one quickly, but back to the point, back to the point of what you’re saying about, right at the beginning, about trust building and the GDPR. There would have been a couple of people who, I think one person started it, obviously, but the acronym GDPR. They would say: Give Data Proper Respect, you know? Yeah. And it ties into exactly what you’re saying. Well, some people might have thought it was quite silly to say that. That’s, it’s not silly at all, because and I say this again, I’m gonna roll back a little bit. But when I talk to people about data protection and privacy in their business, I feel that it should be one of the core values of the business. How are we approaching this? Because it’s such a strong and huge component of trust building now that you can’t ignore it. So everything you’re saying feeds into, like the message we try and put out of: please give this the proper attention it requires because it is the foundation of so much more in your business, not just a compliance exercise. You know, it really builds a very, very strong foundation for you to lift everything up off of.

Finola Howard:  Yes. It is the care, it is customer care. You know the care of your customer, sometimes, when we say customer care, we just forget it, you know, these terms have become so yeah, everywhere that you just, it loses meaning but it is about care for your customer. But if you care for your customer, you care for your business.

Philipa Farley:  Exactly. Exactly, exactly. I mean, yeah, we’ll take that into GDPR straight away there and go with rights requests and the panic and trauma and about a business that data subject rights requests. You know, sometimes people just want to have like, they just want to have their information. There’s nothing sinister about it. There’s nothing sometimes they might just want the photo on their name, you know, deal with it. Like that’s just fix it. Don’t take it personally like they are your customer. You should be honouring what they say,

Finola Howard:  You know, their data is a gift to you.

Philipa Farley:  Exactly.

Finola Howard:  So, you must unwrap it carefully, place it somewhere carefully, and respect it. It’s a gift – you have to consider it as a gift.

Philipa Farley:  Oh, that’s, that’s really beautiful, Finola. And this is exactly why I asked you to please come and chat with us because so many people need to hear that. Thank you, you know, you say it so beautifully. And when you see it like that you do stop with the bad practices, and you become very mindful over it. And I think I’ve used the word ‘mindful’ so much in the last few months, especially because the only way to describe how to sort of stop, take that deep breath, be in the here and now and think about exactly what you’re doing, you know.

Finola Howard:  Well, I liked that kind of hesitance, before you act is the thing that. Like, one of the questions you asked was about “How am I different?” And, I suppose, that even though I always had this perspective, I do now hesitate. And I ask myself: “Am I bringing value here? Do I? Am I helping with a clear heart?” And I would not be afraid to use the word heart here… Yeah, clear heart that this is offering value. This is not me being on some automated cycle that’s just pushing, which is the danger of the marketing, which is here to automate everything to the extent that we lose the humanity in it. It is about communicating, but it is to help to bring this hesitance, to hesitate, to pause to look and say: “What? Am I deepening my relationship here? Do I bring value? Will they treat this email with the same anticipation of the other ones because and because I always bring value?” When you do that, your open rates soar.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Finola Howard:  Be open. It’s not just about it’s the right thing to do, or it’s a good thing, it’s nice to be nice. It is, it has that component, which is important for me anyway, in business and in all of my clients. I know. And, but it’s the other practical pragmatic side of it is the open rate score.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. And I’ll even add to that, because people yeah, people are quite surprised when they start learning about domain reputation. You know, like, if your emails are not being opened, if they’re being marked as spam, if they’re just being deleted, your domain reputation is going to go down the tubes. And your emails are going to start being marked as spam immediately, no matter what you send out.

Finola Howard:  And I think that this other key message that I would be saying to people is: this idea of the curriculum; is this idea of, to move away from this fragmented style of marketing, and to think about this idea of these layers in here that are all connected. But it’s not that your email does one thing and your social media does something else, and your trade show does something else, and your networking does something else. It’s that: how are we building a process that actually brings these all into play? And, when you bring them all into play, oh my god, the open rates and the conversions climb through the roof, because it’s not fragmented. And it’s so powerful. Even, because I ran a campaign even recently, and I’m about to launch another one, but the one for the planning webinar, because I could integrate and learn what my ads told me about the audience on my Facebook page. What happened when I sent an email, to what happened in social media. And the shareability of things across that and because, and I remember I didn’t do everything the way I would have loved to do it, but I definitely connected. Connection between all of these things meant that I, within a very short space of time, like in a five day window, I was full.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. And that’s the impact.

Finola Howard:  The thing that is really important for me to share also with people is that don’t stop communicating just because you’re scared.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. Yeah, please can we get that message out, please? Because I just, I hear it on a daily basis for now. And I’m not even joking like people, they just don’t know what to do. They just don’t know what to do so, like, well, I can help them. I think this message that we’re discussing here of principles, respect, and trust building, is essentially what this law is about. So, if you sit down and examine what you’re about to do, without going to checklists and tick boxes against the law… If you look at it and you go, benching against what you said here: Am I offering value? Am I giving the customer messages that they need to hear? Am I doing…

Finola Howard:  Also, what would they like to know, not what would I like to say.

Philipa Farley:  Exactly Exactly. If you’re coming up with No, no, no, no, no”

Finola Howard:  Like, review it and change your offering exactly. It’s not that hard. Because, sometimes it’s a tweak here. There are so many stories of someone changing direction, actually moving, changing customers, or the product or the adaptation of a product, and much greater sales as a result.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, and they’re happier because it’s actually where they should be.

Finola Howard:  And they become more profitable. Their customers are happy because they’ve got the right customers. Their product is better because they heard their customers’ voice and applied that to the product.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, back to my questions. Very, very quickly, Finola, the impact on you personally, of the GDPR. Has it personally affected you in some way?

Finola Howard:  Well, as I say, one, it makes me hesitate, before I communicate. And it makes me make sure that I understand that I’m bringing value and, am I actually connecting the dots here? Am I doing two things? One, am I helping them and two, does this contribute to my business? Does it help my business? And, is it taking me on the right track? As I said, those stories of, you know, listening to my customer, over hearing what they were saying and then actually adding those two things together, makes me a better communication for what I do. And yes, and the same with, even when you talk about direct impact for clients, I think about the client who I was with last Friday, and how we created a sandwich. I think if I wanted someone to walk away from this conversation with one thing, I would say walk away with a sandwich. And you are not overwhelmed by this desire to sell and to communicate but actually thinking strategically about it and creating this; these layers of things that must be communicated. And take a breath, just a breath. Because, people fall down when they’re in this mad panic, because they’re desperate. And desperation will never solve the problem. There’s a few things. One, if you’re in that state of desperation, first breathe, because and also to say to you, everyone hits this note because it’s the test of you in the marketplace.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah.

Finola Howard:  Take the breath. And listen. Your customer has given you a gift, they’re gifting you data, they’re gifting you knowledge.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, thank you.

Finola Howard:  Yes, I want this, or this is not quite right, or nothing? And, nothing is something. If there is silence, then you’ve not hit the right customer with the right offer. If you need to find another customer? Maybe your product is not viable, but maybe it is? Maybe it is gold, but to somebody else.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah, yeah. And in the end you need time, time is what it is. And in an instant age of instant solutions and loads of people on the Internet shouting about, you know, make whatever 678 900 figures in the next week. No.

Finola Howard:  No, it takes time. It takes and it takes that accessing this truth, that is not just yours, but your customers. That, somewhere, there is this magic in between both, where both needs are served.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay, so the next question, have you seen any opportunities for your own business in the context of the GDPR? And I’ll tell you why I asked that question. You probably already know. But I asked that question because, people I get asked it repeatedly: do you think that the GDPR is a good or bad thing? I get asked it in interviews, even: do you think it’s a good or a bad thing? And then I get my soapbox out and preach about why it’s a good thing, you know. Because, absolutely, it’s put the control in the hands of the individual, not even the customer, consumer kind of the individual, you now have power over your own data. And there’s many reasons why I think that’s a good thing. So, when we look at opportunities in business, people have this perception that the GDPR is a block, as we’ve been talking about. It’s a block: “I can’t do that.” Or, they use it as an excuse: “I can’t do that because of the GDPR.” So, have you seen any positive opportunities for your own business?

Finola Howard:  Well, what I talk to my clients about a lot, because the overriding message that I get from my clients is they don’t want to add to the spam that’s already out there. They don’t want to add to that, the quantity of data or the quantity of contacts that are  unsolicited, it’s just so strong, right? And my answer is always the opportunity is here. So you speak your truth in your voice and you will reach them. It comes back to, I know I’m repeating myself, and I hope this is okay. But it’s important to me. Yeah. Be brave enough to tell your story and and this is not doing a I want to uplift everybody, blah, blah blah. It’s not. It’s a very pragmatic thing. You created this business with purpose. You created this business by identifying a need in the market. Then trust that trust that you created, that you identified a need in the market and that your passion is… I worked with somebody before Christmas, and it makes this the most interesting thing…it makes you fulfill your own mission for your company, your own vision.. Because you know, and I say this a lot, you must you now have to have the balls to follow through. Your starting point of why you went into business in the first place previously, in old methods of marketing, pre-GDPR you never had to put your vulnerability as we go back to Brene Brown, you never had to put your vulnerability on the line because you could just play the game. Yeah, it’s no longer playing the game. It’s about and this is you know the overused term authenticity. It’s about putting your balls on the line, your mission of why you started it and not that you’re in this garden shed going ,or whatever it’s because I think this is such an interesting part. But, most of my clients, most of them have some passion, they have a part of the world that they want to change, they want to change something in the world. And, imagine if we all had the balls to change the piece we knew that needed changing.

Philipa Farley:  Wow. Yeah, Exactly.

Finola Howard:  And, I believe that the GDPR makes us back our own mission.

Philipa Farley:  Oh, it does. It does. And that’s that’s an amazing statement. It’s an amazing statement, but it does. It does. Remember that show that was on the TV? I don’t know if you got it here. And it might have been a BBC show, about looking good naked? Oh my god. Like I just you know, I watch those shows like this, but you have to watch it, you know? And it’s kind of like a similar feeling like, oh my god, Finola, you want me to do? You want me to do what now? You know? Like, like, live video. What now? When? When?

Finola Howard:  When we speak about our passions, our customers believe us. And really, we’ve had to have the GDPR to make us do that. Really?

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. It’s quite, it’s quite funny, isn’t it? Yeah. But it is a huge opportunity.

Finola Howard:  It is about authenticity. It is about…don’t, don’t send me stuff that you send to everyone. Send me stuff I’ve looked for. Send me stuff that helps me.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, exactly. Okay, so we’ve discussed already where you see the opportunities for your clients, because they are there. And would you like to share a positive story, Finola, related to the GDPR.

Finola Howard:  I have lots of them and they all revolve around better open rates., better products, better products, better services. And better insight, because of this desire to communicate better it means we listen better. That’s the untold story of the communication arts, remember communications receiver phenomenon, it’s there’s a possibility of the person who sends that the message comes through intact to the other side. Yes, and because of that, because of this now this approach is permission-based marketing approach, we have to lend an ear. Yes. Because we need feedback to know what we’re doing right. Know what we’re doing wrong to know where to adjust. Yeah. And I think that’s also another big win for GDPR is it makes us listen. In fact, it’s possibly the biggest win for GDPR is that it makes us listen.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah. And it’s what we take away, we can throw it away. And we can ruin ourselves ourselves. Or we can take it and actually process it and apply our learnings. You know, I think that’s, that’s what people need to do. Yeah. Okay. Your time is very valuable. And I’m very aware of that. And I’m so deeply grateful to you, Finola, seriously for being with us today. Do you have one piece of advice to potential clients of yours, because I would really hope and encourage everybody listening to this, to engage with you in some way. You know, I really hope people do.

Finola Howard:  Well, my piece of advice is number test three of permission-based marketing. Because this, if consumers gave me permission to talk to them, would you have anything to say? Have you developed a marketing curriculum to teach people about your products? And it’s this idea of the layers, you will have a layer to teach, you will have a layer to show them who they are, you will have a layer to show benefits, you will have a layer, and I think take it piece by piece, layer by layer, in a connected way. And if you think of it as a curriculum, you will automatically think in a connected way. And, I’m a believer in connected thinking in terms of the impact that it has on marketing, because the numbers speak for themselves. You will have a greater route to success because you connect how you think and how you act in the marketing context. So if that’s, I mean, look at that book, that book is amazing, those four even if just reading the jacket like. Back in 1999, it was asked the question of a permission database.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, yeah. I mean, wow, that man is like, I will admit, I have not read that book. And I’m going to get it today in hardcopy, and have it on my shelf, because actually it should be there on all of our shelves. And he was so way ahead of his time. And I just, I love that about you too Finola, because you don’t just sort of take one thing and then disregard the rest. You hold on to these absolutely beautiful nuggets of information and it benefits the rest of us. So, thank you for bringing 1999 back to us and reminding us that, you know, I think and I say this to people so often now. I think the world went crazy there for a while, you know, the app era and just these masses of useless lists that were made ever, just data harvesting and sucking. So, it would be nice to go back to that time when the Internet was just – I know the Internet’s not always been sort of fairy tales, sunshine, and roses, and whatever. But, back to that calm space where it was such an amazing phenomenon to be connected to somebody on the other side of the world. I mean, do you remember that first time? You got into a chat room or a forum and you were like: “Oh my god, so he’s somebody in America, I’m sitting here on the bottom end of the world!” Like maybe it wasn’t like that in Europe, but it was us, you know? And the learning that you could get from other people, you know, and then the information that started being put up in the courses that became accessible, like, I think there’s just so much good out there. And I’d really like people listening to this, to understand that they can be part of putting in more good out there, more information.

Finola Howard:  You know, like them to leave with this idea to which is that: the software and the technology has moved on in a very productive sense, as well. That we don’t have to, we can personalise what we do and how we communicate. In a way, we can watch behaviours, we can be more, be more capable of giving people what they want because the technology allows us. Even if you look at it from an email marketing context, you have ways of tagging what people are interested in based on their behaviour. And then as a result, you just send them what they want, because they tell you what they want. We have MailChimp, everything, all of these wonderful pieces of software that make it easy for our customers to self select what they want.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah, and and on that point, Finola, because I know there will be a couple of people listening to this, who are part of the data protection and privacy circles, and they would, a few of them would immediately go, “Oh my god, that’s not GDPR compliant software! That’s not GPR compliant software!” And, my answer to that it actually depends on how you use it, how you configure it, how you set it up. It’s not the software. It’s your use of it.

Finola Howard:  It’s just, you know, it’s letting people know you. You tell people, say, when you sign up for this, would you like to have? And they? And if they don’t take it, they’re not on the list. Yeah. Yeah. And yes, as a human being having to go through those lists, like when I started off in mind, yeah, yeah. And pages and pages it’s not they said select by ticking a box to say yes, I would like that.

Philipa Farley:  Yeah. And, and, and the opting out of the tracking and that is there if you if you want to do it. So yeah, let’s not spend too much time on the technicalities, because that’s not the point. The point is the positive message of, you know, please, please don’t feel paralysed. You can speak to your customer, you should speak to your customers, you should really want to let your light shine. You know,

Finola Howard:  I would follow up this conversation also, when I said to you about having this wonderful opportunity to listen to, and people in my Master Class, talk about marketing and I tweaked my messaging and changed some and how it was positioned. And I actually contacted those people. And I said: “What do you think of this, then? Does this resonate more? Does this entice you? Does this reflect? What? Does this fit now?” And I got, straight back, “Yes! This is what I wanted to see!” Because I heard them, and I got that email in this morning.

Philipa Farley:  yeah, yeah.

Finola Howard:  Your customers will help you, and will help you be a better you.

Philipa Farley:  And I really hope people received that message, Finola, and just started changing the mindset, and let that flow of business happen again, because that’s what should be happening. You know, it really should. But thank you so much for being with us. I really, I love talking to you. I could sit here the whole day and talk to you. For 12 hours of it for people, but thank you, Finola. If people want to reach you, where’s the best place to get you?

Finola Howard:  Well, I have an online programme, and you can find that on But, I have a very interesting thing to offer at the moment, which is if you go to , anyone who registered for this affordable accessible programme, which is just $15 a month, you will also be invited to take part in a Let’s Do It Together 30 day campaign builder. So, if you register now, you will get 30 days of me breaking down how to build a successful GDPR compliant campaign, to start rolling out on the second of March. And I think that would be really, really fun. I like to have fun, and yes, correct and build a campaign together. That was the whole idea so that people wouldn’t be alone on this. So, if you sign up today for just $15 a month, you have the option of self selecting to go in there.

Philipa Farley:  And that’ll be amazing. I hope people sign up for that. Thank you so much, Finola. I’m going to stop recording now.

Finola Howard:  It’s always my pleasure. Thank you.

Philipa Farley:  Hope you enjoyed that episode of The GDPR series. If you do, please subscribe. Find us on social media. We’d love to have a chat!

Philipa Jane Farley

Written By Philipa Jane Farley

Philipa is the lead consultant and auditor at ProPrivacy.  With clients as far afield as Canada, South Africa, Kenya, Germany, Spain and other such exotic locations, besides Cork and elsewhere in Ireland, Philipa enjoys a broad view of the state of data protection, privacy and cyber security worldwide.  Philipa’s passion is manageable data compliance for SMEs.

Philipa is a qualified teacher besides holding a computer science (Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence Programming) and electronic and intellectual property law (LLB) qualified. She is trained in constitutional (fundamental) rights litigation and enjoys a good debate.

Philipa has over twenty years of experience working in different sized organisations and sectors on operational, governance, risk management and compliance matters. She is an analytical and focused person that enjoys a challenge in the workplace. She loves technology, systems and people and has a passion for showing people how technology can make life easier and better. She understands that the world is driven by data today but privacy is paramount. Responsibly developed AI excites Philipa for the future.

ProPrivacy | GDPR Privacy Cyber Security in Cork, Ireland