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Email Communications is Criminally Underrated (Still)

As PR professionals, we could do much more with email.

Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Instagram)

Email communications is criminally underrated.

I think of email communications instead of email marketing. The email inbox is a two-way communication channel and should be considered that way.

Still, email is far from sexy.

We’re all spammed by marketing emails left and right. the tonality can typically be described as corporate cringe, filled to the brim with platitudes.

How do we make email work as PR professionals?

No One Loves Getting Marketing Emails

We all struggle with maintaining our inboxes and getting our email addresses abused by spammers. Email marketing can’t be described as the sexiest of spaces to fight for. It’s like no one wants you there in the first place.

And it gets worse:

So many companies are struggling to put out their periodical newsletters. So many marketing departments scramble to write newsletter content that makes sense to the subscribers. Many traditional companies have chosen the insanely boring route of posting headlines and snippets from their latest newsroom or blog updates.

And with all of the hype around various social networks, one might think that email marketing should at least be a thing of the past. However, such a conclusion couldn’t be more wrong. Email marketing is still — and will likely continue to be — the most potent of digital marketing channels.

How can this be?

From a PR perspective, most social networks have a massive disadvantage; the brand doesn’t have proprietary ownership of the audience. Sure, your business can accumulate followers and fans across many social networks, but when push comes to shove, we’re all at the mercy of just a few third-party algorithms. In email marketing, this just isn’t the case.

The Power of Permission Marketing

Both social networks and email marketing have the immense advantage of being opt-in (pull rather than push). As Seth Godin described it, having an opted-in audience could also be labelled permission marketing:

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”
— Seth Godin

Still, email marketing is prone to abuse. There’s nothing stopping anyone from sending out lots of emails to a lot of people. Organised spammers and malware distributors have taken this the furthest, but there’s a massive amount of companies out there doing email marketing all wrong. They’re diminishing a perfectly good marketing channel for themselves and, more importantly, for others.

10 Best Practices for Email Marketing

When people ask me after seminars or during workshops, I have some essential advice for companies who are interested in doing email marketing right:

1. The list is your asset, not the send-outs.

Treat your list carefully and with the utmost respect.

2. Grow your list wisely and responsibly.

Always go for quality over quantity; having a small but business-relevant list is better.

3. Don’t rely on periodical send-outs.

Instead, do send-outs only when you have something worthwhile to communicate, or a social signal triggers a send-out.

4. Focus on content, not on fancy HTML design.

Strive to have your email send-outs look like emails should look. No one appreciates having their inbox look like a carnival.

5. No attachments, ever.

You’re already taking up valuable space in various inboxes; never push sacred privilege by adding attachments.

6. Use email activity to fine-tune custom social audiences.

Some social networks allow you to upload email lists to create custom audiences.

7. One email, one call-to-action (CTA).

Each and every email should only contain one CTA. This way, you can avoid conversion cannibalism.

8. Manually unsubscribe anyone who doesn’t belong.

Your email list is your online living room; if someone isn’t behaving correctly, remove them promptly.

9. Keep your list close to bounce-free.

Your list’s reputation with various senders will largely depend on your bounce rate. Clean your list at regular intervals.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.


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