September 12, 2014

Speak no evil

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who should and do know better.

George Orwell, Why I Write

Email is one of the most personal forms of communication. It is an absurdly powerful medium that allows people to connect on an intimate level.

Unfortunately, many email marketers don’t see it as such. For them, it is a cheap and easy way to slap subscribers across the face with their latest products and sales. Which is a shame, because it harms the reputation of email marketers that take their calling seriously.

There’s a term that gets used far too often in the world of email.


It is most often used by those marketers that are only in it to shove ads into people’s inboxes. They send a blast. They blast a campaign to their list. They indiscriminately throw whatever they can at subscribers in a desperate attempt to get something to stick.

But, there is more good than evil in email marketing, I think.

Not every email marketer has those intentions. Many understand the powerful nature of email. They understand that the inbox is the holiest of places on the internet. They understand that when a person asks to receive an email they are letting someone into their lives and giving them access to that most powerful of things: their attention. They take that responsibility seriously and strive to connect with their subscribers at a very human level.

The danger is that, far too often, even these good marketers use that dreaded term to describe what they are sending. And that word is nothing if not insidious. Even the best-intentioned email enthusiast can eventually be corrupted into sending trite, useless emails when they begin to think of them as mere blasts.

Referring to an email campaign as a blast shows a lack of respect for the subscriber. It shows that you don’t care about the relationship into which you were invited. It shows that you don’t care about that hallowed space, the inbox. And it shows that you don’t care about the value which you can provide subscribers, but only the value which you can squeeze out of them.

I’m not saying that every email marketer that uses the word blast actively thinks like this. I’m just saying that some do. But for those of us that do care about nurturing relationships with our subscribers, we need to be vigilant.

Words are powerful. They not only express what we think but have the ability to influence and shape those thoughts in the first place. When we allow ourselves to use lazy, harmful words like blast, we invite that laziness into our thinking.

The next time you email your subscribers, stop and think before telling your boss that you sent out the latest blast. Instead, show her that you value your subscribers as people by saying you sent the latest message to your audience. You sent a campaign. You sent the next part in an ongoing conversation.

If you do, there’s a good chance that conversation will continue for a long time to come.