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What PR can Learn from Email Marketing [UML]

What PR can Learn from Email Marketing [UML]

As a marketing tool, email doesn’t often get the respect it deserves, yet it remains a crucial across many functions in marketing:

It’s the fourth point that stands out in my mind because the email marketing industry is riddled with lessons for PR.

For example, I’d venture MailChimp, a vendor based in my adopted hometown of Atlanta, used email to pitch the New York Times on this feature: MailChimp and the Un-Silicon Valley Way to Make It as a Start-Up.

The story angle is brilliant: Where every modern city and new startup seemingly wants to compare itself to Silicon Valley, MailChimp went counter-culture.  It was decidedly “Un-Silicon” which is a bit like “Un-Cola” or “Un-Marketing.” Hitting a home run on a podcast sponsorship is a proof point that supports the narrative.

That’s a good pitch that landed a fantastic story about unconventional means to grow a business. News by definition defies expectations.

Indeed, I’ve been weighing the options among email vendors for a while. Though I’ve been partial to MailChimp for both its model and the opportunity to “buy local,” the Times story pushed me over the edge.

I’ve begun experimenting the tools – sign up for my newly created Monthly Scripts email newsletter here – and have been surprised at how easy the product is to use.  My only regret is that it took me so long to sign up; I should have done this years ago.

And so email is the focus for this week’s Unscripted Marketing links (UML). As it is every Saturday, below are three articles where I’ve called out a point I found interesting – and still encourage you to read the piece in its entirety.

What PR can Learn from Email Marketing

1) Email Remains a Top Marketing Channel

A new study on email by Adobe found email remains a preferred communications channel between marketers and customers. Every so often new collaboration tools promise to convince customers to “ditch” email, but it hasn’t happened yet.

To the contrary, the time spent checking email increased 17% among white collar workers, compared with last year, according to the study.  However, while email remains a strong channel, it hasn’t been totally immune to the influence of other technologies.

That’s a fine point captured by Larry Dignan who covered the study in a piece for ZDNet, titled, Email isn’t dead, or dying. It’s thriving, says Adobe.

He calls it out this way:

“Email in the workplace is becoming less formal and more brief. Seventy percent of respondents say texting has impacted work emails with 37 percent saying emails are more concise and another 20 percent adding that email is less formal.”

A chink in the email armor?  Not likely.  Email is still a killer app – the one and only.


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2) Personalization is Optimization

Personalization is a marketing trend that’s forever on the horizon.  It’s always coming, but as an industry, we’re never quite there.

Analysis of personalization varies: some call it creepy, while others call it key, and still others  say it’s the path to the next level in marketing.  All of these are valid descriptions, but one that stands out even more in my mind is the idea that personalization is optimization.

“Optimization includes ways to improve deliverability and response rates, like testing alternative subject lines or offers, or previewing emails in various clients and browsers,” wrote Barry Levine in an article for Marketing Land, called Report: Almost Half Of Email Marketers Send Everyone The Same Email.

Yet despite having the capability to personalize messages, many emails marketers simply aren’t doing it, he wrote:

“In fact, although targeting is considered a mainstay of modern digital marketing, the report astoundingly found that 42 percent of marketers send everyone on their list the same email. And the report said that only four percent use behavioral and survey data for personalizing emails and targeting. But — thank goodness — 75 percent are using email automation.”

The data in this story stems from a survey of more than 1,800 email marketers by email marketing provider GetResponse.

3) Credit Score for Email Marketing

“There’s a big difference between sending email and delivering email,” according to Joe Uhl of MailChimp to a citation by Wired for a piece called, Mailchimp Sends a Billion Emails a Day. That’s the Easy Part.

Email marketing seems straightforward, but in reality, it’s fairly complicated. Beyond looking at just nefarious keywords and the sender’s address, the article says major emails services score the reputation of the sending server:

“Crucially, they also look at the servers sending the email. Most of today’s biggest email services, such as Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Outlook.com, use reputation scoring to rank the likely spamminess of a server that’s sending an email. Think of it as a sort of credit rating for email senders.”

The entire article is a fascinating read on some of the inner workings of an email marketing vendor.  And credit scoring isn’t the own analogy, there’s a taste test involved too!

3 PR Lessons from Email Marketing

So what are the lessons for PR in email marketing?

First, reporters are people too, and surveys of journalists, not unlike the Adobe survey, consistently demonstrate the majority of reporters still prefer receiving pitches by email over any other medium.

Second, there’s no doubt personalized, tailored pitches outperform generic mass emails to reporters.

Third, whether you know it or not, your pitches get a credit score in the exact same way this story articulates, if you use any sort of martech — even mail merge — to send pitches.  If your pitches are being marked as spam often, you may never realize there is indeed a difference between sending a pitch by email and having it delivered.


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Photo credit: Flickr, Tomos, mailchimp-vinyl-toy (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Flickr, Bill Rice, Sketchnote: Email Marketing (CC BY 2.0)

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