Broadcast emails and e-newsletters can be useful tools in medical practice marketing as long as you stay on the safe side of anti-spam regulations. And that's easier than it looks.
You may be surprised to learn that "spam" has a curious and slightly amusing history.
As one source has it, S.P.A.M. is an abbreviation for "Send Post All Members." Could be...but here's a back-story that we like better.
That s-word stuff we all know and hate was first created as a tool for marketing a professional practice. But to everyone's great relief, it was NOT the invention of doctor advertising or healthcare marketing professionals.
In 1994 these enterprising chaps decided to promote their professional services by posting an advertising message to all of the hundreds of USENET message boards in the nation. (Nearly 20 years ago Facebook had yet to be invented and bulletin boards were the online common-interest communities of the day.)
Understandably, this first-of-its-kind mass posting of legal advertising ignited a conversational firestorm. We suspect that-then as now-it was a negative PR backlash. We haven't verified this, but according to popular legend, the "online communities coined the term spam, referring to the Monty Python skit where spam is mentioned 130 times."
Not to defend the idea or the lawyers who first used this early marketing technique, but anti-spam regulations didn't exist at the time. We'd like to think that, had these members of the bar foreseen the disastrous downside, they would never have taken up this form of professional services advertising.
About a decade later, the United States Congress enacted the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. (If you've got a day or two for free reading, all 10,117 words are here.) We're not offering legal advice here, but the cumbersome text boils down to honesty and common sense.
A special note is appropriate here. Anti-spam regulations take aim at fraudulent, misleading, illegal and inappropriate uses of email, and we've never known a healthcare marketing client to have a problem with compliance. In fact, it's relatively easy for legitimate medical practice advertising and hospital marketing activities to know and observe the rules of the digital highway.
But if you haven't looked at the anti-spam regulations recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection provides an easy-to-read compliance guide for business. If you are using, or plan to use, broadcast email, e-newsletters or the like in your doctor marketing plan, the FTC reminds everyone that the CAN-SPAM Act doesn't apply just to bulk email.
[The rules] cover all commercial messages, which the law defines as "any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service," including email that promotes content on commercial websites.
Fortunately, there are only seven fundamentals to staying safe.
Three additional and helpful notes.
The bottom line here is that doctors, medical practices, hospital PR teams and other healthcare marketing professionals will not have difficulty complying with CAN-SPAM rules. Frankly, nobody likes "Self Propelled Advertising Material," or "Sending Persistently Annoying Mail," or "Senseless Pointless Annoying Message."
But that's not what legitimate healthcare marketing and email messaging is all about.