spam and who you formerly were

Subject: spam and who you formerly were
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 1 Mar 2012 12:46:09 -0500


A bit of a cautionary tale, here. I just looked at my employer's external site
and didn't find any kind of statement on how a person could request
removal from mailing lists - nor an explicit statement that "you can't".
We do have a fairly comprehensive, yet understandable Privacy Statement.

Here's the story, so far:

A member of this list alerted me privately that a post on another forum/mailing list
had badmouthed my employer for spamming and for non-responsiveness once
the matter was brought to our attention.

I've worked here for a while, so I thought "we're not evil marketing droids, are we?"
I asked for more info, and started an internal inquiry. Since I'm not in any
of the involved departments, and don't have direct contacts (I'm in a branch
office, in the hinterlands), that involved forwarding a summary to a senior local
person and asking him where to go next.

The victim of the "spam" got in touch with me, and provided additional info,
including volunteering that the address in question had been in very narrow
circulation, so if that address was received in a purchased list, maybe the
list was tainted. Good point. I chatted a bit (y'all know me on that score,
by now...) and waited for the next development.

In a follow-on e-mail, the complainant happened to reveal that s/he had
possibly used that address to inquire after some other company's product,
some years previous. The more astute among you can see this coming,

Yes, the company the person named is one that we acquired about
three years ago. Aha! Now it makes sense.

The complainant was "spammed" legitimately (in this case, offered
greetings and a hope that they'd stop by booth 1354 at the RSA
Conference). When any company acquires another, they normally
acquire assets like customer and prospect lists, and that's what
happened here. The complainant was unaware that the company
that was asked about some software product several years ago was
today a part of this pestiferous new entity that had "spammed" out
of the blue, and (as far as the complainant knew) totally unprovoked.

With that additional info, I explained to the complainant what had
happened, and why the personnel she initially contacted would
have been perplexed at the accusation, and piously offered their
protestations of "we don't do that".

I hope that the complainant will do the decent thing and go back
to the other mailing list with an update (even if s/he has to
embarrass him/herself a little in the process). If not, the member of
this list who originally alerted me might assist. :)

Anyway, some things that might be of value for y'all as well as for me:

- if your company has ever bought another, maybe you should
include that info in a relevant part of your website, to head off
any accusations of spam "If you ever corresponded with any

of these companies (see list below), you corresponded with us, and
might therefore receive mail from us in future."

- if your company has a procedure by which persons on your
marketing mailing list(s) can get off - or can get their name
flagged for "leave me alone" - then that procedure should
be made visible, probably on the Privacy Statement, and
maybe in a FAQ or a "Spam" or "Unwanted Contact" link.

- if your company does not have such a procedure, maybe
you should say so, and explain why. Good luck with that.

I mention it here, because some of y'all have aspects of the company
website as part of your techwriter responsibilities.

Also, if any of y'all can suggest some legitimate-sounding reasons
for a company choosing not to offer a way to get off their mailing


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