Email Discussion Group: Failure Example & Tips To Avoid Failure

What to watch out for when you start marketing through an online discussion group.

Recently, a large public relations firm developed and implemented a newsgroup for its members. The PR group’s goal was to provide a forum for members to exchange ideas, advice, and stories and find assistance for projects they were working on.

Within a week or so of the newsgroup’s debut, the PR firm suspended operations leaving its members confused and angry and seriously damaging the company’s reputation. What went so wrong so quickly?

As reported by Craig Jolley of NetGain [http://www.netgain.org], the PR firm made several mistakes that anyone thinking of implementing a newsgroup or utilizing e-mail should take heed of. Number one is a basic tenet for anyone marketing a new product or service — adequately promote the product. The only steps the PR firm took to announce its newsgroup was a simple line item in the company’s monthly newsletter. Many of the PR firm’s members had no idea that the company had developed and was about to send out a newsgroup.

If you are planning on sending out an e-mail newsletter or building a newsgroup make sure your intended audience is aware of your efforts. Announce its inception more than one time and trumpet its benefits.

The second mistake the company made may have been the most egregious. Instead of offering its members a chance to opt-in to the newsgroup, the PR firm automatically signed up every existing member, assuming that anyone not interested in the newsgroup could unsubscribe. This was a tremendous breach of Net protocol that many would equate with spamming. Always allow your target audience the opportunity to voluntarily opt-in to any form of e-mail communication you may be devising. The damage to your reputation that results when you send electronic communication without a person’s consent is often irreparable.

Make your e-mail communications simple. The initial e-mail announcing the newsgroup was filled with instructions about effectively using the newsgroup and technical information that made the e-mail almost incoherent. Combined with the fact that the newsgroup was not properly promoted, many members had no idea what the purpose of the e-mail was. Any such instructional e-mail should be written clearly and concisely to ensure that your audience understands what they are receiving and how best to utilize your service.

Finally, the PR company rushed its newsgroup to production. The company had not finalized the effort and the incomplete product caused numerous problems. Never launch a newsgroup or e-mail campaign unless all the features and services are fully operational.

The PR firm was forced to shut down the newsgroup in just a week. Before the company can relaunched a second version, it now has to convince their members, many of whom are frustrated and upset, that their first effort was not indicative of how the PR firm will operate any subsequent incarnations of the newsgroup.

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