UNSUBSCRIBE ME….Yes….really…please…

As part of my New Year’s resolution, I have embarked on a new project – unsubscribing from all newsletters, offers and company emails. I started out with the intent of unsubscribing only from the ones I haven’t read in months, but I decided to wipe them all out and start over fresh, only subscribing to relevant and interesting newsletters. It’s not that I hate email marketing, in fact I still find it effective, but over the last 12 years in PR, apparently I’ve not been very judicious about subscribing, nor good about unsubscribing once I am not getting value from them, and my guess is neither have many of you.

This has been a very interesting project for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the shock of finding out I subscribed to more than 200 newsletters that I was just deleting every day. Being in the marketing/PR field, what I found even more interesting was the way that organizations handle unsubscribes. Some have you email them, some are quick one-clicks, some want to ask you once or twice if you are really sure, some bury the unsubscribe on the page you click to, others actually ask you to log in with your password.

I decided to check on the rules for opt-out – I looked at the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protections CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business, and I also found a link to the explanation of the latest CAN-SPAM act, an excerpt of which is:

1.     Opt-Out page:

An opt-out link in an email must lead directly to an opt-out removal form.  A login preference method is not permitted for unsubscribes under the new CAN-SPAM 2008 provisions.

2.     No complicated pages or persuasive advertising

The opt-out link must lead to a single landing page and not to a complicated set of navigation pages or require additional links to get to the final opt-out page.  The opt-out landing page must not contain any persuasive text to keep the user opted-in.

3.     Simple email address entry only

All unsubscribe / opt-out mechanisms must require only the user enter their email address for removal.  No additional information may be requested or required on this opt-out form for removal.

Throughout the last few days I have found many organizations that do not follow these rules. I have been asked to enter log in information, I have been asked if I was sure many times, I have encountered many forms of persuasion, and I have been asked for my address, phone number and much more before being allowed to unsubscribe. In fact there are still a few from which I have not been able to unsubscribe as of yet. Most surprising though is that the sites that are making the opt-out most complicated are not random small businesses; many are well respected publications and organizations that really should know better.

There has been a lot of debate whether “email is dead” and personally I find that ridiculous or at least pre-mature, but I do believe that email overload caused by the inability to easily unsubscribe from email lists is making that a more likely reality as people become more overloaded and frustrated. I understand that marketers are under a lot of pressure to have large lists, but marketing to hostages stuck on your email list isn’t going to get you the results you need.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and on how you handle unsubscribes? Also if there is one e-mail/newsletter that you think I should subscribe to, what should it be?

Also, as a reward for reading my entire post, here is a link to the best post-unsubscribe I have seen yet: thanks for the laugh Groupon: http://www.groupon.com/unsubscribe

Perkett’s “Persuasive Women” Series Continues with Ann Handley

PerkettPR is very excited to enter 2012 with a great new interview in our “Persuasive Women” series. This new interview is with someone we truly admire, Ann Handley. Ann is a 12-year veteran of creating and managing digital content.

Ann is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, which provides marketing know-how for business people through a full range of online media, and the co-author of the best-selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts,Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, 2011) (www.contentrulesbook.com).

Previously, she co-founded ClickZ.com and was a journalist for the Boston Globe as well as a writer and editor for a host of other publications, including those magazines in the back pockets of airline seats.

Currently, she writes for MarketingProfs as well as its blog, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix , a blog in the top 20 of the Advertising Age Power150. She can also be found at the Huffington Post , American Express OPEN Forum, and her personal blog, Annarchy.  She also writes a monthly column for Entrepreneur magazine. On Twitter, she has more than 100,000 followers @marketingprofs.

What motivates you to get out of bed every day?

Actually, Instagram motivates me BEFORE I get out of bed. I typically check the photo-sharing social network while I’m still lying prostrate — I love the network’s visual storytelling capabilities, which only reminds me how awesome content is, which only reminds me how awesome relationships with content creators are, which only reminds me how amazing the rest of my job is, which only reminds me that I need coffee….

What keeps you up at night?

Pretty much anything. I don’t sleep well.

But here goes….

What keeps me up at night professionally: My sincere regret that more companies don’t see the full, robust, incredible, awesome potential of content! That more companies don’t see their content and online publishing efforts as the cornerstone of their marketing, but instead bolt it onto existing efforts in a freakish, unattractive way.

Also professionally: When I have a big speech coming up — like I do now next month in Kansas City  — I’m fretting about that in the middle of the night. In a healthy way, probably (the nerves motivate me to do my best). But it’s fretting, nonetheless. (Oh and by the way, you should come.)

What keeps me up at night personally: I admit I’m a worrier. I worry about my college-aged kid, who lives in an iffy neighborhood near his school. I worry about my daughter, just because I’m a mother. I worry about global warming and the polar bears. I occasionally regret having the second burrito at dinner. How much room do we have….?

I’m kidding.

Sort of.

What’s one sentence or phrase you find yourself using all the time?

“Solve or share, don’t shill.” It’s the mantra I repeat ALL. THE. TIME. to companies looking for a bottom-line guide to their content strategy. And I like it because it sums up — in five simple, alliterative words — what should guide the content you produce. Another way of saying that, is: “Put the needs and wants and perspective of your customers first.” But that’s not nearly as memorable.

Secondly, I find myself quoting Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” liberally these days, just because I’ve had the song stuck in my head for weeks now. (This is what happens when you carpool teens around.) But that can get awkward in certain circles. So I don’t think I’ll mention that here.

How has your life changed from five years ago to today? Where do you hope to be five years from now?

I’m five years older. So there’s that. Also, as Content moved center stage with marketers, I found I actually had something to say! So I wrote a book, “Content Rules” with C.C. Chapman. That has been a rewarding, rich experience in so many ways: It has opened up new and interesting doors, and in it I found a great friend (and “wubby” [work hubby]) in C.C.

More generally, I also like the perspective I have now, which I didn’t have a few years ago. Despite what I said above about worrying — I don’t take things as seriously as I once did. I have more fun in my life and work, and I’m grateful for my awesome kids, my wonderful man, my rewarding social relationships, and my work at MarketingProfs for creating the path to that.

Where do I hope to be? Sheesh. I always have trouble with prognostications. But if I’m as happy as I am now… I’m good. If content is front and center for Marketing, then I’m really good. If everyone here reading this is still caring about what I have to say in five years — if I feel more connected to people and not less, so — well, that would be something, wouldn’t it? (I told you I’m terrible at crystal-ball gazing.)

When was the last time someone inspired you?

I’m inspired every day by the people around me creating and curating content via Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and the like. I’m inspired by my colleagues at MarketingProfs to do more things, to push harder, to be more. I’m inspired by people who take chances, who try new things, who leap into the unknown — like friends who start companies and make changes and do other things than I can’t list here.

But generally, I’m inspired by honesty: People who do things that they are driven to do, that rings true for them, that they are compelled into. Relationships that are real. Companies that create stuff which is truly a mirror of the soul of who they are, or who they want to be. I love that. And I find it incredibly rewarding and inspirational. I want to steep in it. I want to fill some social hot tub with it and sit in it for a good, long time.

When was the last time you got pissed off?

(LOL — this is only time I’ve ever been asked this question — and I love it!)

I got really ticked a few hours ago at my (teenage) kids, who appear allergic to any sense of order in the family room. Seriously? That laundry basket of clothes has needed folding for a week. The bowl of grape stems on the entertainment center?!

Am I your housemaid? THAT. PISSES. ME. OFF.

I probably should come up with something more broadly appealing or more profound — certain candidates surging in the polls do not thrill me — but you asked “last time,” so parents out there: Can you relate?!?!?

What was the last thing that made you laugh so hard you cried?

Tina Fey’s Bossypants. If you haven’t read it, I can’t imagine why not. You will pee your pants. (If you’ve had kids. If you haven’t, you’ll just laugh.)

How does your personal brand influence your job? Or are they one and the same?

I can’t say I fully understand what the term “personal brand” means. Possibly I’m not sophisticated enough. Here’s how I see it: I am who I am online, and sometimes I represent the brand I work for (MarketingProfs). I don’t change who I am because of that, although I probably modify my behavior a bit (as in: I don’t swear, or I don’t get too personal). So I guess the short answer is that they are pretty closely aligned.

How do you manage your role at MarketingProfs, your personal brand and the rest of your life so smoothly? What’s your secret?

I don’t think there is a secret, really. I love my job. I love the rest of my life, too. I guess my secret is that I don’t fake it. But is that a secret? I can’t imagine so — it just is.

I think — as in most things in life — relationships are key to everything. I do well on social networks because I truly value the relationships I build there. I treasure my personal relationships. I value my friends. This isn’t groundbreaking, I’m sure. But it makes my life worth living.

Can you share your favorite work tools for collaboration, productivity, or organization?

MarketingProfs is a virtual organization. So Skype is a connectivity and productivity and collaboration tool. As is Basecamp. As is Dropbox.

I also like our Team ‘Profs private Facebook group, along with a handful of other private groups I belong to that allow me to check my sanity and deepen relationships. See above.

What’s next for you in 2012?

The paperback edition of Content Rules comes out in the spring. MarketingProfs continues to grow and morph. I’m celebrating my one-year anniversary as a columnist for Entrepreneur magazine (http://www.entrepreneur.com/author/1726). Otherwise? I think I said I was terrible at looking ahead….

Persuasive Picks for week of 1/2/12

Fortune contributor Anne Fisher questions readers in her latest article, Who owns your Twitter followers? Maybe not you

Search and social are two very different animals that require different types of nurturing, creative support, and management, Dana Todd gives us 2 crucial rules for managing search and social at iMediaConnection

“The industry is littered with the remains of services that seemed to have potential, only to fall short before long.” says Don Reisinger in his CNET post that asks Is Pinterest the ‘next big thing’ in social media? 

 

Mashable offers Social Media Predictions for 2012 including a plateau in the growth of Facebook, YouTube gaining popularity in the living room and more celebrities pouring money into tech startups.

The Enterprise Still Confused by Social Media – Marketers, Where Are You?

A couple of years ago, we were hired by a global security software company to plan, write, distribute and implement a social media policy for their company – not a small job for an enterprise with employees in more than 100 countries across the globe, and products and technologies for over 300 million users worldwide.

Since that time, we’ve written a lot of social media policies for clients – and trained their employees on proper social media use in various divisions, but I still remember sitting in the board room during our initial kick off, going through questions to help us determine how much work was needed, when one answer shocked me: “We don’t know and it’s impossible to find out.”

This was the answer to the question, “How many social media accounts does the company have and where are they – who runs them?”

Now, while the answer stood out back then – considering social media was a bit of the “Wild West,” and companies were still struggling to buy into its value – I would imagine that today, businesses have a much better handle on who is representing their brand, where and in what way.

I’m wrong.

According to a report by Altimeter Group released yesterday, many of the challenges that we were navigating clients through years ago still exist. Jeremiah Owyang blogged, “Many companies have launched social media efforts with little planning. As social media spreads beyond corporate communications and marketing, business groups are deploying social media without a standardized process. In fact, enterprise class corporations (those with over 1,000 employees) have an average of 178 social media accounts and this number will only grow if left unchecked. Companies that don’t control these accounts are at risk of having abandoned accounts, lack of consistent experience, or untrained employees creating a crisis.”

Wow.

I’m shocked that the enterprise hasn’t caught on yet. How can companies be so lackadaisical about who is talking for them in a public form? How did employees feel the freedom and right to go create branded accounts without some sort of process or checklist? Are companies aware of non-affiliated accounts that have been established (read: hijacked) in their name? (One of my favorite examples I use in my conference speeches on this topic is Chapstick.) And what do these businesses do now in order to reign it all in and get a handle on smart social media for business?

Altimeter Group’s report – and pending webinar to review it – is a good start. It covers market trends, industry problems and data – as well as a buyer’s guide for some monitoring tools – but I’d like to ask one other question. WHERE IS MARKETING?

How can marketing divisions in these companies not be concerned with public discussions of their brand, company and industry – even if they are not the ones running the accounts/updates? Even if other business groups are deploying social media accounts, shouldn’t marketing – as the brand police – know this and help to manage the messages? I blogged on a related topic a few years ago – that with social media’s rise, we are all now in PR, all now brand ambassadors and customer service reps. Because of this, marketing should now – more than ever – be setting, defining, monitoring and managing those messages, regardless of which business group is using social channels. How did marketing departments and PR executives let this slide?

Are we still that far behind? I like to think not. But, if you’re working with a PR or marketing firm that hasn’t yet audited your social media presence – and provided strategic recommendations for improving it – now might be the time to find out why.

Yes, we are all continuing to learn as the industry evolves and new tools are introduced, but this is marketing 101, folks. You monitor who is saying what about your brand and where – and you put a plan together that includes some action around these conversations. There’s no excuse anymore – social media is a part of all business marketing – if not customer service, HR, business development and more. But at the very least, marketing should know about the “on average” 178 “brand” accounts – and reign them in. Reports like Altimeter’s can help you choose the best tool vendors for strategic monitoring and measurement in the future. Get the right vendors, hire the right PR and marketing partners or executives and get your employees trained right – but don’t ignore it any longer. I don’t think the proliferation of vendors is any excuse for letting your brand go wild while you try to make a choice.