The damage done to the Obama’s administrations reputation for digital excellence by the careless (or deliberate) sending of emails about health reforms to those who did not want them, reminds all marketers of the need to consider the audience before sending mailings, especially mass mailings.

The questions to ask are simple
1. Who am I mailing?
2. What is their opinion of me / my firm / my brand currently (e.g. are they satisfied customers, interested prospects, uninterested, hostile)?
3. What is the value of my mail to them and are they likely to react?
Questions 2 and 3 have to be answered for each distinct group identified by question 1.

The questions are simple to ask, and often not too difficult to answer. The difficult part is the discipline of thinking from the recipient’s point of view each time without fail.

The issue is discussed in an AdAge article and makes an interesting contrast to another article on the same date which indicates that viewers of ads unsubscribe less often if they are given more information on how to do so. The message seems to be clear – be open with people and give them the choice. They will be tolerant of listening to you. Push messages at them without choice and they will complain and turn away.

Of course, the fallout is worse than usual if you are dealing with a highly contentious issue like US health reform.