Monday, August 13, 2018

Could Your Newsletter Get You In Hot Water? How Not to Be a Newsletter Spammer

Chances are you’ve been bombarded with GDPR related emails over the last few weeks. It seems as though everyone is scrambling to be sure their organization fully complies with the new regulations. If you (like many, many consumers) have no idea what the heck GDPR is here’s a super simplified explanation.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and it was fully enforced on May 25, 2018. The GDPR regulations now mandate that all EU organizations that collect, register and store personal data (emails, names, etc.) complies with several new and much more stringent requirements of how personal data is managed. Organizations that fail to comply with the new requirements could be subjected to significant fines of up to 4% of the organization’s annual global revenue, and further compensation as determined by law. 

If you think you’re exempt from the new GDPR regulations because you reside in the US, be aware that this is not necessarily true. If you collect and store personal information for your author, blog or any other newsletter purposes and you have even one EU recipient you’d better be sure you reach out to that one EU resident and have them update their newsletter preference settings now or you just might find yourself out of compliance with the new GDPR regulations.

This brings me to the methods you may or may not be using to build your newsletter mailing list.

Newsletter Subscribers

Newsletters are AWESOME marketing tools that every author should be using. Newsletters are great for keeping your readers updated on what’s going on with you and your books. However, the way you’re adding subscribers could get you in trouble… and not just with GDPR regulations.

You may be under the mistaken assumption that you can simply add an email address to your newsletter subscriber list anytime you have any sort of contact with someone. This simply is not true. Doing this can get you labeled as a spammer and the consequences can be serious.

Giveaways are NOT a Free for All

As an example, I often run giveaways during my book and author marketing events. During these giveaways, names and emails are collected for the purpose of notifying giveaway winners ONLY. If an author asks me to provide the personal information of giveaway entrants in order to add them to his or her own marketing newsletter mailing list I politely decline. Not only would the author risk being accused of spamming, I would also be taking the same risk since I was providing the contact list. By the same token, I couldn’t use these same contacts for my own newsletter purposes or for any other reason other than notifying the giveaway winner.

Make no mistake about this; unless someone specifically signs up for your newsletter, you do not have the legal right to add him or her to your newsletter subscriber list. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling products or services in your newsletter or not. It’s spam if the recipient hasn’t signed up to receive your specific newsletter. Period.

What MailChimp Says

Chances are you use an email marketing company to write and distribute your newsletter. For example, MailChimp is an excellent email-marketing platform and it’s the one I use for all of my newsletters. Whenever you add a new subscriber to your list, your email-marketing provider specifically asks if the person gave you permission to email them. Take a look at the MailChimp screenshot below:

If the person did not give their permission then you cannot add their name and email address. It’s that simple.

If you go ahead and say they gave permission when they did not and that person ticks the “I did not sign up for this newsletter” box, or even worse “This is SPAM”, your newsletter is considered spam and this alerts your email marketing provider.

How to Ethically Build and Use Your Newsletter Mailing List

Newsletters are beneficial marketing tools for staying in touch with subscribers. As long as you…

  • First define the reason why you want to distribute a newsletter in the first place. (I’ve found many people have no clue why they want a newsletter, much less what information they should include)
  • Distribute valuable, beneficial updates about you and your book or business
  • Don’t spam anyone
  • Bombard people with frequent mailings

... newsletters should be in your marketing portfolio. Just be sure to do everything right or you might end up losing your entire subscriber list and be forced to start all over from scratch.

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