Since my e-mail address appears at the bottom of this column, I expect to receive a certain amount of spam; it goes with the territory. I was dumbfounded, however, when a company promoted its e-mail accreditation technology--designed to increase consumer confidence in the medium and reduce spam--by spamming me. It was so ironic that I actually picked up the phone to call the sender.
It turned out that the e-mail was sent to me as someone interested in developments in the e-mail channel, as evidenced by this column. With this context I was less aghast, but certainly not favorably disposed toward the company. What did they do wrong?
Context. No explanation was given as to why I was receiving the e-mail. I would have perceived it in a different light if the sender had provided some context, e.g., "Since you write a regular column for the E-mail Insider, I thought you would be interested in...". Despite the personalization ("Hi Melinda,"), the canned corporate-speak made it clear the message was intended for everyone and anyone, not for me.
Content. The message consisted of an intro from a PR firm and a press release. You can almost hear someone from the offending company saying, "Just send out the press release to everyone on the list." Rather than adapt the message to the e-mail medium, the message was 100 percent "let us tell you about us," with a journalistic who/what/when/where style and big block paragraphs. I can't say it often enough: e-mail must immediately answer the reader's question: "What's in it for Me?" in an engaging, personal style and a skim-able format.
Purists will say that no matter what the message contained, it was unsolicited and still spam. While technically correct, attention to message content and context would have radically altered my perception of the message and the company. It's easy to develop a list and send a message to people who may be interested in what you have to offer. And, as this message shows, it's just as easy to tarnish your brand and the medium--when you don't take the time to adhere to best practices and common sense.