Why it’s not okay to email everyone on your list about health care reform

(This has been edited from its original state to clarify some points as a result of the first comment. I’m grateful for the opportunity.)

Regardless of how passionate you are about health care reform . . . regardless of what side you’re on . . .

It is not okay to send me and everyone else in your address book your opinions about the health care debate that is going on right now. In fact, it’s not okay to email me about anything but your art. (Don’t send me jokes, causes, or inspirational messages.)

UPDATE: DO send me personal stories that will help others with the business of art. Tips on how you got health insurance, etc. are great! Thoughtful analysis of what a particular provision in a health care bill will do for artists is also welcome. But don’t forward bulk emails with others’ opinions in them without personalizing it and making it your own.

Why? Because I’m not on your list because I asked to hear about health care. It’s not that I don’t care about your health or about health care reform in general. And it’s certainly not that I don’t care about the artist’s plight to get decent health coverage. I hope you know me better than that by now. It’s because of the following.

I know you because of your art and we have an unspoken agreement that that is what our relationship is about. I asked to be on your list because I wanted to hear about your art. In fact, that’s probably how you got me to sign up in the first place. I imagine you said something to this effect: “Would it be okay if I emailed you monthly updates about my art and career?” You didn’t ask if I’d be interested in hearing about health care or politics.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. What would you think if I started emailing you my views about health care? I imagine you wouldn’t like it because you signed on to my list to hear about the art business! You REALLY wouldn’t like it if my views are different from your own.

If you have collected names for your art mailing list you must use that list only for your art. Don’t risk alienating your fans by sending polarizing email messages. It isn’t worth it! Not only do you risk losing names from your list, you risk taking advantage of others’ goodwill.

Be judicious with your emails

Guard your mailing list with your life. Treat the people on it as you would like to be treated–or better. As I’ve said many times before, that list is your #1 asset. Those are the people you’re cultivating to become collectors.

If you no longer want to receive email that you didn’t sign up for, protect your boundaries. This is how I reply to such emails.

Dear –,

I would love hearing about your art, but please remove me from your other mailing lists.

Thank you for respecting my wishes,

Alyson

I used to just delete such messages, but I know I’ll keep getting them until I do something about it. Besides, I should be modeling professional behavior.

Related Resources

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23 comments to Why it’s not okay to email everyone on your list about health care reform

  • Alex Dorn

    Although your advice about using your mailing list only for business, the first part of you post comes off as calous considering that artists are a fairly large group of uninsured or under insured people due to the extremely unsteady stream of income, it’s unfortunate that you would take such an unfeeling stance towards what is literally a life and death situation for many struggling people. Maybe they just thought you cared about them?

  • Alyson Stanfield

    Alex: Gosh, I hope that artists know me better than that by now! I’ve been helping artists for over 7 years. I care deeply about their health and well-being. I am sorry that my post came off that way. As someone who has been without health insurance at times in my adult life, I am passionate about this issue.

    The emails I have received (not a lot!) are bulk emails forwarded that the artists themselves did not write. That would make a difference. In fact, it’s something to add to this post, so I’m very glad you mentioned it! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify.

  • Brava Alyson. Unless an artist does work that is meant to evoke debate on social and political issues it is just out of place to break the implied agreement that the email list will be used to promote and/or inform the recipient about art. Mailing lists create a nearly sacred bound and should be honored as such.

    If in the rare circumstance it is appropriate for an artist to advocate a position on a sociopolitical issue, a creative artist should never simply forward another persons words. For goodness sake, artist are creative people, we should be able to use our own words to express our own thoughts on an issue.

  • As an artist and someone who has rarely had coverage I have to let you know that I agree with you Alyson.

    I feel it creates a more enjoyable environment to keep art and politics separate. I don’t like to mix the two.

    It’s unfortunate that Alex believes it is appropriate to make an “attempt” at causing you to feel bad for stating this.

    Regardless of how I ‘feel’ about important issue’s in my life, my mailing list of other artist’s and art lover’s is kept separate from my personal belief’s. But then again I prefer to make art and associate with artists who focus on subjects that help us feel some kind of joy rather than stirring up the pot of malcontent we are drowning in as American’s.

  • It’s great to know/learn more about health reform, but I can see Alyson’s point – she would really need the email to be the writer’s own words/story, as it relates to them as artists. The pro-info and anti-info can be found online, and Alyson is smart enough to find it herself. Artists do need health care, but it really comes down to this: If someone has signed up for your art email list, that’s all they signed up for. It’s a matter of respecting your clients and your email list, and only sending them what they requested.

  • On the subject of being “Off topic,” I’d like to add this… An artist friend of mine sent me an email that was not Bcc’d and the issue seemed important enought to me to “reply to all.” The next thing I knew, one of her friends “subscribed” me to his “inspirational message” list. I got one every day. When I asked that he remove me from it, his reply was, “OK. Have a nice day, unless you have other plans.” This would seem to me to be an excellent example of how NOT to run a business and create enemies!

    So, you might want to rethink the “reply all” in any email you get that displays mulitple email addresses. And I would suggest that people learn how to use the Bcc feature. I do when I send to multiple parties.

    http://www.wikihow.com/Use-BCC-in-an-Email

  • Thank you Alyson, for this very timely post!

  • Probably an artist’s email list isn’t the best place to champion causes- it risks alienating some of the potential supporters for one’s artwork that the list is designed to help create.

    Still, I have to put my two cents in. Both my sisters have lived in Canada for decades and each of them have very low incomes. They are astounded when I tell them about my experiences obtaining health care in this country. How my HMO decides for me which doctors I can see and how much coverage (if any) I am to receive. My wife works as an RN in a major hospital and sees daily the difference in the quality of care received in the US by those with good health insurance and those who don’t have coverage. She is determined that our children NEVER go without health insurance. To call her a Single-Payer fanatic would be to put it mildly.

    I teach at the Maryland Institute College of Art and it troubles me greatly that I am sending my students out into the world as artists and designers who are going to face health issues while most likely being uninsured. I want to tell them they should move to Canada.

  • That guy just resigned because of this very issue…He was a lawyer in a law firm & he also worked for a cause org that he believed in…Because he was seen lobbying for the cause group, the press linked that to his law firm, throwing speculation on the other lawyers which was unwanted…The guy resigned that afternoon, in order to politely keep the link broken between his two interests…This is how dangerous linking can be for the other artists you work with in a gallery…If one artist starts campaigning for a cause & it gets linked back to the gallery, though unintentional, it makes all the others look like they support the same cause…Which maybe they don’t…
    As an aside to the Canadian comments, though we get health care for free, what it means is that the actual quality of research & treatment is very very low…The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still needs to get mowed…(quote from a lady called FindyourBlisscoaching – sorry for the plug, I think I’m still on topic…)

  • ok am trying to type with my left fingers due to fracturing my right “artist” wrist last night…
    what a coincidence! I just wrote Thursday an email to all my friends/clients that have been sending me political and health care issue emails…first off, no one knows my political background and I resent that I receive emails with mean spirited verbage…I also don’t care what anyone else believes or party affiliated, this is a Free country and you have the right to express yourself, but don’t force it on me or assume I believe the same as you…It bothered me that I had to send the email out, I knew I would hurt feelings, however what about my feelings? and WHY all the names and email addresses for everyone to see? that is so dangerous…let’s just use common sense!!

  • Thanks for this timely issue of using email lists for alternate causes. I would definitely say this is a faus pas and a risky use of business lists and a violation of privacy. But I would not say “never” violate this boundary. Rather, I would say, consider the costs and consequences. For instance, if someone’s house is burning you might violate the rule of breaking down their door (ultimate boundary) but otherwise you respect it.

  • Thanks for this post. I agree with you and find such emails annoying. If I want information other than that which is focused on art I can find it myself. You’re doing a great job and I appreciate all you share with the art community.

  • Alyson I really like the email you use when people cross your boundaries, and agree about modeling professional behaviour. I recently had trouble with someone emailing my staff time-wasting jokes and a variant of your email would have worked well in that situation. If it’s okay with you, I’ll keep your wording tucked away for future use at home and at work.

  • Your point isn’t about healthcare but more about blanket emails and I agree totally with you.

  • I could not agree more Alyson… My email list is sacred and it will always be protected. A couple of years ago I met a well-known artist, and loving his work I signed up for his mailing list on his website. I now get all sorts of political dissertations and ramblings, and even though we both have similar political leanings, I find that receiving these emails in my inbox is offensive. I was interested in his art on his artist site… not his personal political views.

  • Thank you so much for this post. I’m in absolute agreement with you. On August 4th I posted about Email Barrage on my blog. I really feel it is time to set the boundaries on what type of email relationship we’re in with everyone who emails us. What I hear is that most people long for the end of their friends barrage of opinions, but don’t have the courage to set the boundaries. Congrats to your courage.

  • Thanks for this post. Let’s hope the right people read it and understand!

  • This is so appropriate, Alyson.
    I am always walking a line between my art, environmental issues, and now health care. I don’t intentionally cross that line with my art mailing list or on my blog, but with on-line networking systems such as Twitter & FB I do. I recently had a person “unfollow” me on twitter, calling me a “leftist and socialist.” but even he wished me well with my art.
    I feel morally obliged as a citizen to be politically active, so that we can better the situation for people like Alex, and millions of others, but not in an unsolicited email barrage.
    In the gallery it’s just plain smart business not to post political banners.
    It’s incredibly sad that health care is a political issue, instead of human.
    Best to you, as always, and thanks so much for your postings.

  • Also I keep forgetting to congratulate you on this great new blog format! Quite elegant!

  • I too feel morally obligated to be po active politically. BUT I keep that seperate from my art business. Our country is usually divided 50/50 on most politics so I know that I will alienate 50% of the folks out there with my personal views. I avoid politics on Twitter, FB, blog, email, newsletter etc. It’s the smart business thing to do

  • and of course… perhaps not everyone on your email list is American! Even when there’s an issue that directly affects you or other artists, which I am genuinely concerned about, I CAN’T contact my senator, I CAN’T sign your (local) petition, and I CAN’T lobby my congressperson. If you must send out something like that, please put “attention: American readers” in the subject line so I can delete it.

  • Great post, Alyson.

    I’d also like to add the thought that the best way to gain information on any cause, including health care reform, is to do your own research. Read the proposed legislation and contact your representatives. Emails circulating the internet are often inflammatory and incorrect. Many of these emails are actually propaganda.

    By the way, your passion for helping artists is evident!!

    Thanks for all you do,
    Mira

  • Alyson,
    I made the mistake of doing this once and to make matters worse I thought everyones address was in blind cc and it was not. I took my beating like an adult. And I will never ever ever do this again.