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How to market within POPIA framework

How to market within POPIA framework

Staff writer

MAIN IMAGE: Jacques Rossouw, CEO of Loom Property Insights, and Ted Frazer, national marketing manager for Seeff Property Group

In an age when personal information has become a valuable commodity, protecting the privacy and data of individuals is an important concern. South Africa took significant steps in this direction by introducing POPIA (the Protection of Personal Information Act) in July 2020. For property professionals who handle sensitive client data, understanding and adhering to the Act’s requirements is not just a legal requirement but also an ethical obligation. How does one continue effective marketing within its framework?

Loom Property Insights CEO Jacques Rossouw says POPIA is a good thing. “Before POPIA, the most common approach for direct marketing was to purchase lists of names and numbers and call people directly to obtain housing stock for real estate. These lists had various origins, and many were compiled by data aggregators who utilised all manners of sourcing – from applications like car purchases to general HOA lists. Due to no formal safeguards, a person’s contact information was aggregated and resold multiple times and used in direct marketing initiatives,” he explains. He adds that this was not just being applied in the real estate sector but in many others, for example, insurance.

After the advent of POPIA, obtaining bought or free lists of personal information was no longer permissible. That said, Jacques believes we need to look on the positive side. “Obtaining the contact details in a compliant manner ensures the agency’s and its agents’ credibility. The protection of the end consumer is also a factor that will ensure trust is maintained in a way that will help the industry at large.”

POPIA best practice

Two of the core principles of POPIA are accountability and consent. Information needs to be processed lawfully, and clients need to know why their data is being collected. Data minimisation is another important aspect and means that only necessary data for its intended purpose is collected. The data must then be stored using robust data protection methods, such as encryption and secure databases, with regular security assessments in place.

Jacques emphasises that the minimum criteria that need to be in place for both sales and mandate agreements is a “Data privacy” clause that covers data acquisition, data processing and the guarantee that the data will only be used for the purpose of the intended transaction. “When you call a potential client, you need to explicitly obtain their consent before proceeding with any discussion. If explicit consent is obtained, you can continue with your engagement; if explicit consent is denied, you must ensure your system caters for consent management and flag the client as ‘consent revoked’.

An agency that receives a consent revoked MUST ensure that NO other agent in the same agency contacts the client again – if they do, it’s a breach of the POPIA,” he explains.

Putting compliancy plans and training in place

Ted Frazer, National Marketing Manager for Seeff Property Group, says the POPI Act has affected several touch points in the real estate business, “from collecting, storing and sharing client information to marketing activities. For this reason, Seeff put a strategy and roll-out plan in place right from the outset, by developing and sharing updated documentation and marketing materials.”

“Most importantly, Seeff embarked on training for all our agents so that they were all aware of the impact and requirements of the Act and the need to obtain consent. To this end, marketing material such as newsletters, mailers, and other communications must all feature an ‘Opt-out’ clause that clients are made aware of. In addition, with Seeff’s permission-based, opt-in approach that is contained in all our electronic marketing, when signing up for any newsletter or property alerts, a field is included where we ask users for permission to communicate to them.”

Tips for effective marketing while being POPIA compliant:

  • Transparency and consent: Clearly communicate how you will use clients’ personal information. Always seek explicit consent before collecting any personal data. This can be done through checkboxes on online forms or verbal consent during in-person interactions.
  • Secure online presence: Ensure your website is secure and conduct regular security audits to identify and address potential vulnerabilities.
  • Content marketing: Create blog posts, videos, or infographics explaining the property buying or selling process. This establishes your expertise and can be done without revealing personal client information.Share success stories or case studies without revealing personal data. Highlight challenges faced and how they were overcome, focusing on the process rather than specific client details.
  • Email marketing: Only send marketing emails to individuals who have opted in to receive them. Implement a double opt-in system to ensure subscribers genuinely want to receive your emails. Important:Include an easy-to-find ‘Unsubscribe’ option in all marketing emails. Honour unsubscribe requests promptly.
  • Social media marketing: Engage with followers without discussing specific properties or client situations. Focus on general real estate trends and tips.
  • Virtual property tours: Create virtual tours or videos of properties without including personal client information. Emphasise the property’s features and neighbourhood highlights.
  • Networking: Attend industry events and network with fellow professionals. Personal connections can lead to referrals without violating privacy regulations.
  • Data encryption and storage: Use encrypted communication channels, especially when discussing sensitive client information.Invest in secure cloud storage solutions with encryption features. Regularly update passwords and access controls.
  • Training and awareness: Educate your staff about POPIA regulations. Ensure they understand the importance of data privacy and the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Client rights: Provide clients with resources explaining their rights under POPIA. This proactive approach enhances your reputation as a responsible and trustworthy agent.

The POPIA act is available here, and is a good starting point is to familiarise yourself with the basics, advises Jacques. A company like Loom is available to discuss the minimum requirements for mandate and sales agreements. “Don’t fall into the trap of trying to do the work without a proper legal and process framework. Legally, you need to understand the requirements for obtaining and processing personal information and align these with your agreements,” Jacques says. Non-compliance, while punishable by law, can have a far greater impact on the reputational damage it can cause to your company.

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