Good Publicity, Bad Publicity

Every e-marketer should realize by now that sending unsolicited and unwanted email to an individual or group of individuals can lead to consequences including damage to brand credibility, loss of trust, lack of respect and most of all bad publicity. Especially when said marketer obtains the email address of unsuspecting journalists via articles they’ve written about said marketer’s site and adds them to a spam email list.

Case in point. I recently wrote an article about a certain lingerie outfit using a new e-commerce technology. Within 24 hours of the article being published I began receiving unsolicited advertising via email from the lingerie store about a sale they were having. At the bottom of the ad was a message stating, “This email is not sent unsolicited. This is an Opt-In Network mailing! This message is sent to subscribers ONLY.” Confused, I went to the site to review their privacy policy and read, “The only way you will receive promotional emails from fredericks.com is if you have signed up as a member of our exclusive Star Club.” Really? Interesting, since I never subscribed to any list at this site, nor did I sign up as a member of their Star Club. I visited the site once before to verify how the technology I was covering worked, but never added my name to any mailing list nor did I sign up for access to anything on the site. Normally, I’d expect to be added to a press release list, which is typical. But a spam list?

Usually, when someone consents to having his or her email address used for marketing purposes, it is usually communicated by submitting a checked box on a Web page or submitting their email address. In this case, my email address was obviously taken from either a cookie placed on my PC during my visit to the site or lifted from the article. I’m assuming it was the latter. Nevertheless, there was no pre-existing business relationship. There was no consent. The only thing this company did that didn’t offend me was to offer a way to opt out. So, I did.

A Word to the Wise
If you are unsure whether or not your marketing practices are ethical and/or legal, then review them with your legal counsel. Make sure you’re operating within the law. Respect the privacy of subscribers and visitors to your site, and respect their choice by asking them FIRST if they’d like to be added to your list. Then, grant them the ability to get off the list the first time they ask. We’ve said it before on this site and we’ll say it again: If you want the respect of customers and industry professionals, then respect their mailboxes. Do not spam!

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