Email Marketing

I’ve been spammed by the Liberal Democrats today. George Smid, Lib Dem MEP Candidate East Midlands has sent an eblast out in preparation for the European Parliament election taking place on 22 May.

Email marketing plays a pivotal role in political campaign management, and was used to get effect by the Obama administration during both elections.  So how did the Lib Dem’s get it so wrong?

More importantly, should political candidates be held to the same high quality standards as commercial organisations when it comes to complying with email marketing best practice?

What does the political spam look like?

No surprises here.  It is just your ordinary or garden variety spam. The kind of junk one does not want to receive.  You can see the full email in PDF format here

Spam message content

Why do I think the email from the Liberal Democrats is spam?

First and foremost, I have never opted in to the Lib Dem’s email marketing campaigns, nor have I opted in for any political party’s messages.  In other words, I have not given permission to receive their emails.

The second spam signal is when I saw my email address they are sending the email to is incorrect.  They are using an old email address that I stopped using years ago.

This email address corresponds to a time before I became a British citizen, and before I had the right to vote.

And finally, they have sent email to both me and my husband using dead addresses that get forwarded to my current address.

Political email spam

How did the LibDem’s get my email address?  I initially thought it was from the Electoral Roll. The Edited Electoral Register is a list of all registered voters who have neglected to tick the necessary spam box. This box needs to be ticked every year, otherwise you are subject to spam. 

I got in touch with the LibDem’s privacy team and despite several emails back and forth never received a straight answer. Stacey Kennedy-Clarke tried to be helpful, and on 12 May forwarded my email query regarding the source of the data to Tony Rogers, the East Midlands Lib Dem Chairman, but I never received a reply

Mike Hunter has suggested that it is most likely they got the data from Companies House.

When I clicked through to the unsubscribe option I could see that all the data the LibDems hold about me, in particular my address, dates back to more than two years ago when I last moved house.

As I mentioned previously, I have never knowingly provided any political party with this data.

lib dems email database

The email I received was targeted to businesses in the East Midlands, and I imagine this was the guise the Lib Dems used to get round the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, that prohibits sending emails to private individuals.  This legislation says that organisations must only send marketing emails to individuals if you have agreed to receive them, except where there is a clearly defined customer relationship.

Nevertheless, they have a responsibility to use accurate and up to date information. And they are treading a very fine line by mass spamming directors of businesses in the East Midlands.

What saves this email from really being spam?

Fortunately, there is some good practice going on with this email despite the fact I just don’t want to get George Smid’s emails.

  • I can unsubscribe from the emails
  • I can update and correct my contact details

2 responses to “Spam Email from the Liberal Democrats: what makes an email spam?”

  1. Andrew J Titcombe says:

    Was particularly interested in this, Susan, as I moved from Cumbria to the East Midlands (Coalville Leics) last summer & am ANNOYED I am not on their business database! They did not not do much research I have been mainly self-employed since the 70s and once employed about 20 people I had written (as I often do) to the local MEP (A Lib Dem) when we got here on an issue of religious freedom in Europe and he gave me a quick and courteous email. A few days before the election I emailed him again about a similar issue and again he responded almost immediately (and even replied to my reply!) I was so immensely impressed with HIS grasp of email contact and “customer care” that I voted for him He is totally clued up and I will send him a link to your article and see his comment -I think he will feel let down as he is an excellent example of a good local MEP (however I feel about they sytems itself but that’s another story!)

    They are amateurs in email marketing and should be held up as a bad example I will let you know what my MEP says! Andrew P S My great uncle was a successful businessman who was also a Liberal MP in London’s East End many years ago I wish he were here to complain to!

    • Susan Hallam Susan Hallam says:

      Thanks, Andrew. I suspect the fact they are using out of date address information explains why you are not on their list!

      And I agree entirely that this problem is not the MEP’s problem, but the marketing machine behind him, and more particularly the marketing agency doing the actual email campaigns.

      I think it would be great if you could bring it to their attention, and I was surprised and disappointed not to have had a response.

      ps – cool fact that your great uncle was also an MP!

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