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Jeff Sodeman
10-08-2009, 06:43 PM
Email has become an everyday part of our lives, and as such we are sometimes "attacked" by unwanted messages. In the course of running a dojo and promoting seminars I've been on the receiving end of some very non-Aiki responses to newsletters that we have sent out. I can only hope that some of this is the result of not knowing what options are available and how to use them to resolve the problem, and so I thought I'd write a short guide to dealing with unwanted email.

In the old days we would try to maintain a list of dojo addresses, print out fliers, get all the students together to stuff envelopes and lick stamps. While it's always nice to do things as a group, the cost and effort involved in doing a seminar mailing, plus the environmental cost of all the paper and gas used to deliver them, and the difficulty in helping people get off or on to a paper mailing list makes email newsletter services a much better solution.

How do people get on our email list? They either sign up for it directly, or we add them to it when they attend one of our events. We figure that someone who attends one of our seminars might like to hear about other seminars that we offer. Maybe this isn't always the case, but as I'll show it's very easy to resolve this in a harmonious way.

So on to your options. As an event comes up, like the 2010 Bridge Seminar, we send out an announcement to our mailing list. As a recipient there are 4 things that you can do if you didn't want to get that email from us, and I'll describe the result of those actions.

Ignore or delete the email - Walk on by (GREAT)
Maybe you aren't interested in this particular event, but would like to hear about other future events, so you simply delete the email or ignore it.

Unsubscribe - Blend with the email (GOOD)
Every email we send out has a simple "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the email. If you don't want to get any more mail from us all you have to do is click that link and you won't hear from us again. This helps us, it helps you, and is the right way to handle being on an unwanted email list.

Mark it as junk/spam - Cripple the emailer (BAD)
When you mark an email as junk/spam is does a lot more than just throw it into your spam folder. Your mail service will start to filter other messages from the sender straight into the spam folder, not just for you but for everyone else too. So by marking an email as spam you're potentially affecting all of those other people who *want* to get that email. Once again, if you don't want those emails simply Unsubscribe.

File an abuse report - Kill them quickly (VERY BAD)
An abuse report against an emailer can very quickly get the emailer's account disabled. It's only takes TWO abuse reports in ONE THOUSAND emails to get an account closed. For the volume of mail that a dojo sends out, that's pretty much 2 reports ever. Then no one gets to hear about events, the events don't get as good an attendance, and everyone loses. Once again, if you don't want the emails just Unsubscribe. When is an abuse report appropriate? When you unsubscribe from a list and they keep putting you back on it.

FOR DOJOS
Finally a quick note for dojos and others that want to send out email announcements. First, use a newsletter service like MailChimp. It's free for anything a dojo would need, has great tools for making nice looking emails, has tracking and reporting, and it makes it easy for people to join and unsubscribe for your mailing list.

If you are going to send email out on your own never use CC (carbon copy) with a long list of recipients. Every person gets the full list of recipients, which is annoying on a variety of levels. Instead put yourself in the TO field, and put your recipients in the BCC (blind carbon copy).

Linda Eskin
10-08-2009, 08:57 PM
Great post Sensei, and a very creative (and appropriate) way of looking at mailing lists. I've managed a few, and ... well, I feel your pain.