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Christopher Knight

Ezine-Tips Subscriber Feedback on New Truste Email Privacy Seal
By Christopher Knight

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First, read the article that started this thread: New Email Privacy Seal Program From TRUSTe - Should Ezine Publishers Care? Then, take a look at one of the responses I received from an Ezine-Tips member: (who asked me to not release his name)
TRUSTe's Privacy Seal simply looks like another way to market Return Path's Bonded Sender program with a couple of tweaks so it doesn't look so obvious. For a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving consumers from unscrupulous marketers, TRUSTe's relationship with Return Path seems too incestuous. Return Path pays TRUSTe to supposedly "monitor" the Bonded Sender service. TRUSTe turns around and sets up a "privacy seal" that sounds an awful lot like Bonded Sender and gives Return Path the exclusive right to market it. Isn't there something wrong with this picture???

Unforuntately, your suggestion to test this program for companies with email lists over 1 million just plays into their hands even more. You're encouraging your readers to pay TRUSTe and Return Path for this privacy seal and then see if their subscription rates go up. If we assume the privacy seal is ignored by 100% of prospective subscribers, I'll bet you that half of your readers' subscription rates will increase while rates for the other half will decrease. That will leave half of your subscribers thinking that the privacy seal is what made their subscription rate increase and they will continue to throw good money after bad.

If one offers an e-newsletter that provides value to one's subscribers while earning money for the publisher, you are certainly not going to "kill the goose that laid the golden egg" by spamming your subscribers and risking their ire and/or defection. If publishers wanted to send spam, they would not need to spend all of their hard work, time, and money to build a subscriber base for spamming. For almost no money, CDs with millions of email addresses are readily available.

The fact is that newsletter publishers are as far on the other end of the spectrum from spammers as possible and prospective subscribers understand this. TRUSTe's privacy seal is a costly and shameless solution to a problem that does not exist. I would hope that your readers are smart enough to know that this "Emperor has no clothes." And if TRUSTe wants to regain any of its credibility, it should close this program before it even gets off the ground.
Fran Maier, Executive Director of TRUSTe responds:
"Matt Blumberg sent to me the comments from a reader regarding TRUSTe’s Email Privacy Seal and of course read your column and some comments yesterday about the Email Privacy Seal, and wanted to set the record straight on what it is we're trying to accomplish. In particular, the reader’s comments call into question the independence of TRUSTe with regard the Email Privacy Seal program and suggest there is something funny in our relationship with Return Path.

TRUSTe’s competencies lie in developing strict, objective standards and objective processes for monitoring and enforcement which are not available in such transparent detail, anywhere else in the marketplace. The advance of our mission to deliver increasing protections for consumers and convert more businesses to better standards of conduct, in the case of email, also requires technology expertise which Return Path, among others, can provide.

As a partner in either Bonded Sender or the Email Privacy Seal, Return Path brings an excellent reputation for permission marketing and building a base of good practices to increase deliverability. It makes sense for us to join forces to distinguish good emailers for the hard work they put into consumer-friendly practices. Our exclusivity period with Return Path is finite, but we are excited to be able to not only rely on Return Path, but also DoubleClick, to help ramp up these pro-consumer standards in marketplace as quickly as possible.

I also would like to reinforce the significant substance of the standards, monitoring and oversight not to mention the value to consumers. I suspect many of the marketers reading this will recognize themselves among those individuals that really do want to increase protection of their customer data but find an overwhelming institutional inertia to change. Many marketers happily exploit and resist removing the barriers to consumer insight into their true data practices. TRUSTe is uniquely positioned to incent companies to improve and disclose their practices.

Once you have actually been certified, we welcome your feedback - both on how the processes help improve internal visibility into your emailing practices, and also how it does or doesn't help increase registration rates. We expect to see variability and an adoption/recognition curve, but in our experience, everyone benefits when companies rise to the challenge of meeting third party standards, communicate more clearly with customers, and provide them with dispute resolution.

We intentionally designed the Email Seal program to make it easy for companies to become accredited for either or both programs, but the value they provide is very different. Bonded Sender is B2B without visibility to the consumer, and the value lies in deliverability - where we’ve established a 22% increase. The Email Privacy Seal adds a layer of consumer disclosures and a stricter permission standard for 3rd party sharing as opt-in, to meet consumer expectations. In limited pre-release testing we saw a 7% registration lift for newsletter publisher We fully expect that companies who use both programs will enjoy much improved email campaign performance.

I encourage any Ezine to take a look at the substance of the program and decide for themselves whether its important to your employees, customers, management, shareholders, partners or ISPs to be able to prove affirmatively and confidently, that you don't spam."

Fran Maier
Executive Director, TRUSTe
Thanks Fran for setting the record straight. I'm sure our subscribers appreciate your insights. In the meantime, if any Ezine-Tips subscriber does end up testing the new TRUSTe program *and* gets any significant bump in new subscribers due to the seal...please let me know and I'd love to do a case study for all to learn from.

This Ezine-Tip was submitted By Christopher Knight -- Email List Marketing Expert, author and entrepreneur. Get your weekly dose of Email newsletter publishing, marketing, promotion, management, email-etiquette, email usability and deliverability tips by joining the free Ezine-Tips newsletter:

Ezine-Tips for July 31, 2005

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