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Best Practices for e-Newsletters

Best Practices for e-Newsletters

A Design article written by Lynne Newbury

There is close to a universal hatred of "spam mail" and so there should be. But subscribers aren't always right, they sometimes have short memories and can forget that they joined your list of their own free will, which is a good reason to keep all records of each subscription request!. Once they are presented with this information they usually accept their honest mistake and hold no malice; without this you will always be in the wrong.

This fact is quite scary - a database of "known" spammer domains is held and distributed by MAPS who provide this list free to ISPs as a basis for their spam-filtering efforts. This means if your domain gets on the MAPS list, your messages will be filtered out of the mailboxes of most of the people on your mailing list.

I am certainly not a fan of spamming but must admit to being a little nervous about any organisation that can just shut down your eMarketing efforts without any sort of feedback process.

The MAPS folk have come up with a list of best practices that we recommend you follow:

Rule 1: The email addresses of new subscribers must be confirmed or verified before mailings commence.
This is known in industry as "double opt-in." No-one is added to the list until he or she has replied to an email message confirming sign-up. This prevents someone from signing up an email address without the owner's knowledge.

Rule 2: Mailing list administrators must provide a simple method for subscribers to terminate their subscriptions.
This is pretty self-explanatory and usually takes the form of providing an opt-out link on all correspondence to make it easy to unsubscribe.

Rule 3: Mailing list administrators should make an "out of band" procedure. All this means is that subscribers need alternative ways to contact you other than by email or a website. Giving your phone number, fax number, and/or physical address on each mailing will suffice.

Rule 4: Mailing list administrators must ensure that the effect of their mailings on the networks and hosts of others is minimised by proper list management procedures. Basically this means keep your list clean of bad email addresses. Every time you send an email, whether it makes it to its destination or not, you are using someone else's computer. So be kind and use only the resources necessary.

Rule 5: Mailing list administrators must make adequate disclosures about how subscriber addresses will be used.
This means having a documented security policy in place that outlines your policy in regard to sale, distribution and use of the subscriber's details and telling them up-front how you intend to use their information.

Rule 6: Mailing list administrators should make adequate disclosures about the nature of their mailing lists, including the subject matter of the lists and anticipated frequency of messages.
Tell subscribers what the mailings will be about and how frequently you will send them.

Rule 7: Hold adequate records for all subscribers.
This means protecting yourself in case you are ever accused of spamming so you can clear your name easily and without animosity with your accuser.