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Remember CAN-SPAM is opt-out, not opt-in law Giving PR proper praise as potent branding tool

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Once more, I find myself in the role of ombudsman for readers of BtoB. As in the past, the subject is e-mail and the problem is a statement that is misleading at best, and could cause unnecessary consternation to those sending legal e-mails. In the article “Give your e-mail marketing new life,” (July 14, page 20), a senior director of ReturnPath is reported to have said that with e-mail databases being populated from multiple sources, “there's more of a chance that your list contains e-mail addresses of people who haven't given their express permission to be contacted ...” To that I say, “So what?” As members of American Business Media who receive (and read) my many e-mails on the subject know, the CAN-SPAM Act is essentially an opt-out law, not an opt-in law. Therefore, there is no risk associated with the inclusion on a distribution list of “people who haven't given their express permission to be contacted.” Assuming that an e-mail is not fraudulent or misleading, it may be sent lawfully to anyone in the country who has not opted out from future commercial e-mails from the “sender.” Opting in, or, in the words of the statute, the giving of affirmative consent, is almost irrelevant to CAN-SPAM. In fact, the only meaningful difference to the sender between those who have not opted out and those who have given affirmative consent is insignificant. When there is affirmative consent, commercial e-mails need not carry the otherwise mandatory “clear and conspicuous” notification that the e-mail is an advertisement or solicitation. Therefore, even though, as the article states, recipients who have not given express permission may be “more likely to report your e-mails as spam,” presumably those to whom that report is made know better. DAVID STRAUS Thompson Coburn Washington counsel , American Business Media dstraus@thompsoncoburn.com In BtoB's July 14 cover story “Most airlines shun marketing as way to fly through storm,” I was heartened to read the quote from Forrester researcher Henry Hartevedlt: “For the most part, airlines have backed away from big, traditional advertising programs, focusing their efforts instead on public relations.” But imagine my surprise reading Mary Morrison's story that the words “public relations” never reappear in her story (although she does mention internal communications). If the airlines are using more public relations, shouldn't that topic have been dealt with in more detail? Reading the story, the perception is that public relations is a poor cousin that needn't be considered as part of the marketing mix. Perhaps a follow-up feature might encourage more b-to-b marketers to start thinking about public relations as the potent branding tool it has become? DAVID BRIMM President BrimmComm dbrimm@brimmcomm.com
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