PRSA responds to email complaint

NEW YORK: The PRSA publicly defended its email protocol last week after it was questioned on an industry news website, O'Dwyer's PR Daily.

NEW YORK: The PRSA publicly defended its email protocol last week after it was questioned on an industry news website, O'Dwyer's PR Daily.

The industry organization on June 10 sent a mass e-mail to its members, explaining why it contracts with a third party that tracks whether its marketing messages are opened by recipients. PRSA sends email for events, solicitations, and other commercial situations through a company called Blue Sky Factory. The email allows for opt-outs and complies with the CAN-SPAM law, according to PRSA executive director and COO Catherine Bolton.

She wrote via email that Blue Sky Factory only collects in aggregate the number of opened and unopened emails, the number of click-throughs and information on invalid e-mail addresses, or hard bounces. Bolton said the email that she sent on June 10 had only received five responses by mid-afternoon on June 15th. Bolton said members usually respond in droves when they're concerned about something.

The PRSA outreach came in response to a June 8 article that called the service "a bug." In response to an article on O'Dwyer's website, an anonymous posting read, "There's no reason in the world why PRSA has to bug its email. It's no body's [sic] business but my own as to if and when I open an email. I'd still be opposed to it if there were a good reason for doing it, but there isn't. Everything PRSA can get from bugging the email can be gotten from traditional methods of measurement."

PRSA used to send email blasts from in-house, but the effort backed up its server, Bolton said, adding that the society does not use any of tracking software for its one-to-one emails. The purpose of the tracking elements, Bolton said, was to see how accurate its mailing was to its 28,000 constituents. The firm does not use this tracking software on its one-to-one email, she said.

She added: "Most people in the industry understand that this is standard business practice."

The partnership with Blue Sky Factory had been in practice for seven months without the PRSA hearing a single complaint or question, Bolton said. For commercial emails, PRSA emails says, at the bottom, that the email was powered by Blue Sky Factory and provides a link to their website.

"They wanted the exposure... and we wanted them to solve our email problem. We were very upfront and open about it," Bolton said.

"In fact, the number of members who have opted-in to receive PRSA e-mails has consistently grown" since working with Blue Sky, Bolton wrote in an email.

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