There was a time when unsolicited e-mail blasts were all too common; finding a personal message among one's in-box clutter was a daily exercise in frustration. But as consumer ire and spam-filter technology advanced, PR pros became wary of incorporating e-mail into their outreach mix. Now, however, e-mail is back - with a few major differences.
"E-mail outreach has changed over time," says Scott Schneider, EVP and director at Ruder Finn Interactive. "A couple of years ago, the standard practice was to buy a big list. We don't do that anymore."
These days, Schneider explains, "it's about opting in [and] customizing messages so they don't get lost" via filters or delete keys.
Scott Holmes, managing partner at Wongdoody's interactive division, UnitedFuture, says he splits e-mail blasts into two categories: sporadic vs. regularly scheduled.
Though random blasts are sent with good intentions, Holmes says, they're not as effective as the e-mails people come to expect.
"Something I know I'll get, something relevant and interesting, even if I don't have time, I'll always open and scan," he says. "I can at least flag it and [return to] it later."
E-mailing is a quick, inexpensive way to get news out, even when distributed in the hundreds of thousands, says Melinda Krueger, principal of Krueger Direct/Interactive. Plus, she adds, "it generates lots of consumer data."
However, Krueger warns, the challenge for PR pros is to provide consumers with "something you can't get elsewhere," like the inside scoop on a new product line, specials, or local events.
While "online marketers are really blazing the trails" with e-mail initiatives, she says, most industries can benefit from the medium.
Packaged-goods brands can see successful ROI with e-mail blasts, says Schneider, by using them for coupon and discount programs. And from patient-education outreach to travel campaigns, clients can easily incorporate an e-mail component to create synergy around their offline efforts.
"You'd be hard-pressed to find [a client] that doesn't want to do it," Schneider says.
Solicited e-mail blasts are a cost-efficient, relevant, and personal way to reach consumers
E-mail blasts can boost offline efforts, and provide consumers with brand
details or exclusive offers
E-mail blasts can be effective in any category, from retail to pharma