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Ain’t too proud to beg — tone of voice in GDPR emails

Like you, I’ve received a shedload of GDPR-related emails in the past few weeks, from businesses desperate to keep me on their mailing lists.

I’ve been surprised, and puzzled, by the tone of some of what’s arrived in my inbox.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Please don’t leave us! Email marketing re-confirmation”
  • “Do you still love us?”
  • “Newsletter opt-in [business name] needs you”
  • “Don’t leave me this way” (love the Thelma Houston/The Communards reference, but it’s not great as a, ‘still want to be on my list?’ email headline)

Presenting yourself as clingy isn’t an enticing opening gambit, and it doesn’t inspire confidence. It’s also a bizarrely inconsistent choice of tone for businesses that don’t usually sound whiny or needy.

Although it might be the way they feel inside, they don’t have to communicate like this. If they’re regularly in touch with their lists, they can add info about GDPR (in their usual tone of voice) to a scheduled email.

But, if they haven’t contacted the folk on their list for a while, GDPR coming into force seems like the perfect opportunity to get back in touch with them. To remind those who’ve signed up: who their organisation is, why it matters and why their content’s worth reading.

If that’s the aim, assuming that, if they’re given the option, people are going to unsubscribe isn’t going to help. And, as point 7 in this Nielsen Norman Group article on 10 design mistakes in the unsubscribe experience shows, coming across like a petulant, spurned lover won’t work either. But using a warm, respectful and upbeat tone can make subscribers who are leaving your list feel positive about your brand.

Another thing that struck me when I was mulling over these emails, was what happened to the copywriting basics? Aka selling the benefits of what you do, and focusing on your clients’ wants and needs.

Most the emails I read have been all me, me, me or us, us, us, e.g. starting with, “we’d like to keep in touch”, or rounding off with, “I want and need to be in touch with you, my customers”. Fair enough. I understand that. But I’m fussy about what lands on my digital doormat. I want an inbox full of consistently inspiring, entertaining and relevant content. Show me how you’re going to help me achieve that, and we may have a deal.

Pleading headlines also beg the question, who wants to keep every Tom, Dick and Harriet on their lists anyway? Separating the not-that-interested from the genuinely engaged can only be a good thing. Surely the clients, you want to stay in contact with are the ones who see the value, in what you say, do or provide?

The only email headline and subtitle that piqued my interest have been, “GDPR (and an excellent monkey)” and “You’re awesome, let’s stay in touch.” They’re clear, to the point and intriguing – what kind of hardhearted soul can resist a spot of flattery and the promise of a photo of an excellent monkey?

What do you think?

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