Saturday, March 13, 2010

Email Etiquette Refresher Course

I'm not even sure where to begin on this topic. I really thought we had covered this ad nauseam, but based on the number of people who get to Little Merry Sunshine from the search terms "to vs cc" or "email etiquette" and the number of emails I continue to receive where the sender clearly doesn't get this concept, I guess not.

Just today, I received an email message from a business I've never been to in a neighboring town announcing that a woman I've done business with in the past has joined the company. Super. Good for her. Really. I'm happy she's found a new job and I've enjoyed doing business with her in the past, so might have continued until I realized that (1) the email was not from her, but was from her new employer and (2) the email was sent to me and about 50 other people, all of who's email addresses I could see.

What irked me was that she had given my email address to her new employer rather than contacting me herself, so now I'm on their email list. But what irked me more was that the business cared so little for protecting their client list (or maybe more appropriately their hopeful client list) and did not use BCC. The business in question has no idea what the recipients will use that email list for or to whom they will forward all those email addresses.

Personally, my client list is my business lifeblood and I wouldn't give or sell or trade that away for anything. When I email my clients, I always use BCC. Not only do I want to protect the privacy of my client base, but I want to protect my own business. How does this business owner know that someone won't give that list to their competition?

What did I do with the email? I wrote the owner back (I did not hit "reply all") and asked to be removed from the email list and never to be contacted again.

Just so we're clear, if the people in the group all have a reason to know the others are receiving the email, then using TO or CC is fine. For example, if you are emailing a group to confirm an upcoming meeting, use TO or CC. There may need to be some pre-meeting discussion via email between all the attendees and having those emails is useful. Sending out a newsletter, business announcement, reunion notice, etc. where the recipients have nothing in common, do not need to be in touch with each other, or haven't given you explicit permission to share their email should be done through BCC.

I know that it feels like there is no privacy in this world of interconnectedness, but a little common sense and asking yourself the question of "Would I want this email list shared outside of this group of people?" or "If I were a recipient would I want all these people having my email address?" will usually give you the right answer of when to use To vs. CC vs. BCC.

Because privacy is such a big deal, I'm reposting one of the most popular blog posts of all time on Little Merry Sunshine.
To vs. CC vs. BCC
November 22, 2008

I have a pet peeve and it's been tripped up again. Given that I have lost friends over this particular pet peeve in the past, I thought I would put this out to my blog readers and see what you all think. I'm open to the fact that I'm simply overreacting to this and have been wrong all these years.

My pet peeve is when people send out emails to a huge list of recipients who are not all known to each other and put everyone in the TO or CC field rather than the BCC field.

The TO and CC fields allow all the recipients to see one another's email addresses. In some instances, this is fine and necessary. Those instances usually include times when some sort of conversation is taking place via email and the recipients need to be able to respond to everyone.

It is my belief, however, that if an email is strictly informational (e.g., marketing emails, jokes, political, religious, newsletters, etc.) then BCC should be used.

I run my own business and work hard to respect the privacy of my clients. I never send out emails to my entire client using the TO or CC fields. I believe it's just rude. I don't know what my clients are doing with the emails (hopefully, forwarding them to their family and friends - that's how referrals are built!) and I don't want my email address book to end up in the wrong hands.

Previously, a good friend of mine (now a former friend) would send out all those unsupported urban legends to huge lists of people using TO or CC. None of them were ever true as they were easily disproved using I politely repeatedly asked this friend to check out before forwarding these outrageous emails , use BCC, or take me off the list. Multiple emails later, that all used TO or CC, I hit "Reply All" (on purpose) and politely told everyone that whatever the newest urban legend was, wasn't true and included the supporting documentation. My friend blew up at me and we haven't spoken since. I know that hitting "Reply All" was rude and probably embarrassed her. But I truly did not know what else to do.

A couple of years later, I had a distant family member on the other side of the country do the same thing but with religious emails. And his friends, none of whom I knew, would repeatedly hit "Reply All" to discuss their church activities. Personally, the religious emails offended me on many levels, but I felt like I was in a Catch-22. I enjoyed the ability to keep in touch with my relatives, but did not share their fundamentalist religious beliefs. Again, I replied to my relative (not everyone) and shared with him my request to use BCC or to not send me the religious emails, but he didn't. These emails continued for weeks until I finally wrote and sternly requested, in an email only to my family member, that I be removed from the list and only contacted for family-related business. My family member hasn't spoken to me since.

This has started to happen again with someone I knew peripherally from college marketing his new business. I have written this person (not the entire group) and politely asked him to please use BCC and related how much my clients appreciate when I respect their privacy and I know his will too. But now I'm questioning myself. UPDATE: The person wrote me back, thanked me for bringing this to his attention and said he would use BCC from now on.

Do you run into this To vs. CC vs. BCC problem? How do you handle it?

I am open to the possibility that I am overreacting and that the rest of the world does not find this problematic.

I'll step off my soapbox now. Thank you for reading.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for leaving a comment on Little Merry Sunshine. Due to the volume of spam comments, all comments must be approved to ensure they are not spam or spambots. Thank you for understanding.