You may have heard the brouhaha about the Obama administration sending an email marketing campaign out to millions of recipients last week regarding the health care reform. During a press conference Fox News reporter Major Garret asked why the White House is sending unsolicited email to people who have not opted-in to receive email from the administration. Apparently he got one of these emails with the subject line reading “Something Worth Forwarding”.

Funny enough, I’m on this list, and I didn’t get this email. I’m on all candidate lists so I could monitor what they were doing during the election. However, this particular email came from “David Axelrod” who is one of the President’s advisers. I have received emails from him in the past, so it’s strange that I didn’t get this one.


So as it turns out, the White House responded that they are going to redo their email rules and only send email to people who request it. An Obama spokesperson said:

“We are implementing measures to make subscribing to e-mails clearer, including preventing advocacy organizations from signing people up to our lists without their permission when they deliver petition signatures and other messages on individual’s behalf.”

So are they suggesting that people are being signed up without their permission? It looks like it. According to the White House this list has been mailed to before but maybe not about this subject. Was it the content that got people angered? Who knows, but in any event I think the White House made a series of mistakes during this entire process.

Who is David Axelrod Anyway?

In my opinion their first mistake was to send an email with such highly volatile content and have it NOT come from the President himself. Yes, I know he’s Barack’s Senior Adviser, but he’s not Barack.  I signed up to get emails from Barack Obama not David. Had I received the email from Obama, there is a good chance I would have opened it. I don’t know why the administration uses other names.

Why Is It So Difficult to Send Email to Those Who Want It?

The second mistake is that the White House should keep track of who they can send email to and who they shouldn’t. It’s a pretty easy task to do. Then they don’t risk upsetting their constituents and they won’t have a PR nightmare (like it has become.)

Why the Deceptive Subject Line?

According to CAN-SPAM, the subject line should relate to the content of the email. The subject line “Something Worth Forwarding” crosses the line and does not really describe the email content.

Politicians Get a Free Pass in CAN-SPAM

Since CAN-SPAM regulates “commercial email”, politicians kind of have a free pass when it comes to email marketing. Under the CAN-SPAM law they can pretty much send to the lists of people that sign up as well as lists of people that don’t. Should they? In my opinion, no. They should be sending email to those who want it. It’s better for their “brand”.

Make sure you’re looking at who is on your list and who you’re sending email to. If you don’t do it correctly (as the White House proved) you could damage your brand that you work so hard to maintain.

What are your thoughts on this?

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