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August 2014
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Don’t Email Customers about a Red Hot Sale Right after Their Houses Catch on Fire

Automatic email scheduling is an efficient tool — you can make sure your email blitzes run unimpeded and in a well-organized manner, just as planned, even when they aren’t being actively monitored. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep a close eye on your automatic marketing strategies, particularly when an event of massive importance just transpired. Don’t be the company that sends an email declaring: “We’re flooded with discount merchandise!” after a typhoon that killed thousands.

Fortunately, huge national tragedies are quite rare — rare enough for you to take stock of your communications and make sure that they are appropriate. Failing to adjust your content in the wake of a major event might not actually insult your consumer base, but it will give the public the impression that your customer relations efforts are just sloppy.

Make sure you check your email campaigns right before they go out.

Even if your emailed newsletter is fairly innocuous, you will still want to double check to make sure you don’t accidentally reference some recent event that could cause some measure of backlash. For example, before the Boston bombing in 2013, if you had an email campaign for your New England customers referencing the marathon, you might have wanted to go ahead and stop it from being circulated.

This is also a good time to get a few opinions on using large disasters as an excuse to use your product. During the Hurricane Sandy disaster, The Gap suggested that East Coast residents use their time shut away during the storm to do some online shopping. That move caused quite a bit of criticism, since nearly 300 people lost their lives — approximately half of them while barricaded in their homes.

Don’t send marketing emails at all if you are unsure.

If your email marketing campaign is particularly irreverent and there has just been a sensitive event, you still might want to prevent it from running, even if it doesn’t make any specific references to the incident in question. Sending a blithe email during a time of national mourning never reflects well upon the sender, even if the subject has nothing to do with who or what is being mourned.

Don’t send automatic emails indiscriminately when your product or organization is in flux.

If a product you retail has undergone a major public relations issue, you want to reevaluate your position on using it to market your brand. For example, Tylenol had a major recall in 2010 after the Food and Drug Administration blasted Johnson & Johnson for failing to respond to years of complaints about an odor coming from the products. Sending an automatic email notice featuring a product that the public might fear could reflect poorly on you.

Once in a great while, a large organization experiences significant public relations problems. When the national story is about your company, you want to be exceptionally careful about what you communicate to your public. An automatic email that makes no mention of the issues surrounding your organization could send the wrong message. Tesco, a major supermarket chain in the United Kingdom, had a scandal break in the beginning of 2013 involving the adulteration of ground beef with horsemeat. An auto-tweet from Tesco two days later stated: “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay!” Yep, very bad indeed.

Automatic email scheduling can be fraught with problems if you elect to set them and forget them, but they are wonderful tools when used properly.

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The Succinct Subject Line

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Social Media 101 Basic Rules for Rookies

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6 Tiny Details that Can Make or Break Your Image Use in Email Marketing

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5 Reasons You Must Test for Success

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