Q24 If you purchase a mailing list, then is it unethical if the people on the list have not “opted in” to receive information?

“It’s their fault!! We didn’t do anything wrong ... the list company is the problem.”

Okay, if you have said or heard this, then who vetted the list company? They did not do their own vetting. If you selected the partner company and you sent out the communication, then you are a part of the problem too. The people receiving the information you have shared through email won’t say, “Oh, that darn list company!” On the contrary, they will be annoyed at the sender or the company’s poor judgment for sending the unsolicited communication to them. At the same time, if consumers like what they receive from a company that has purchased from a list partner, they don’t say, “Oh, I’m so glad a third-party shared my information.” This is not the “normal” way of thinking.

What comes from the company is the responsibility of the company. Let me offer an example, although it does not pertain exactly to an email list company. Rather it is a company that gathers information about journalists, bloggers and media professionals in a database shared with PR professionals. PR pros can use the database to create customized media lists based on the information provided to share their news releases with these journalist and bloggers. Many journalists and bloggers in the database often wonder, “Why am I getting so many news releases and how did I get on this list.” If your information is public then your credentials may end up in the system. As a blogger and podcaster myself, it is the reason I have the latest news, from many different businesses, flowing into my inbox every day.

The company’s website clearly states that it has a database with more than 1.5 million contacts from traditional media to bloggers and social influencers. On occasion, 1 have received emails from the company to update my profile or to be removed from their system. There is also an opt-out option for any news release or pitch 1 receive that I no longer want.

Being on the receiving end of this information, I would say that seven out of 10 times, I am happy to receive the news, and the company sharing receives my praise. It is that “thank you company” for sending me this information rather than the “darn you, database company” for sharing my information in the first place. No matter what, the ethical approach behind the sharing still gives me a choice to opt-out.

When the purpose is good, the information is accurate and it comes from a place of helpful information, I’m all in and there is no reason to opt-out.

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