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CCing Your Company Image

Use BCC to protect your companies image and brand.

Forwarding interesting or funny emails is nothing new. Since the dawn of this great medium, people have been reading something humourous, touching or bizarre and have sent it off to their list of friends. However, when the email addresses contain your company's name, it associates it with the content of the message.

Recently I received an adult themed joke/picture in my email box from someone I know. After opening it, it contained all the forwarded addresses up until it was sent to me, filled with ">" and certain comments attached. After taking out all of the Yahoo or Hotmail addresses, as well as ISP's, I came up with a list of 47 companies that were listed within the body of the email. The majority of them were large, multinational corporations where perception of their brand is very important. There was a trail of who sent it out to whom, along with some nicknames people had given each other (i.e. Rob "The Tongue" from a large pharmaceutical corporation and Greg "Who's Your Daddy" from a prominent food manufacturer).

Not only does this put your company in the wrong light and potentially harm your image, it also gives the chance for a spammer to harvest the addresses and sell them. That one email had over 200 email addresses I could have sold.

How do you stop this from happening? Other than enforcing a business use only email policy, you can urge employees to use the "BCC" (Blind Carbon Copy) function when sending emails to multiple addresses. That way, each recipient only sees their own name and if forwarded, will not contain a distribution list. However, what if it's not a joke or an interest piece? What if it has to do with confidential information, such as your company's client list?

Recently a friend of mine received an email from a large newspaper, inquiring about his company, a large insurance firm, placing an ad in an upcoming feature. The email was sent out to multiple clients and everyone's address was in the "To:" line for all to see. Not only do you run into the issue of a spammer using these, but since this was a group of clients, how much do you think it would be worth to this newspaper's competitor? The direct email to the buyer of ad space at large corporations. It can reflect an image of your company that you don't hold your clients in a high regard.

Once you've mastered the art of Blind Copying people on emails, you also have to look at the validity of the messages you send. The forwarding of hoaxes, both about mythical viruses and amazing wealth are rampant in any email system. Recently, a virus warning I received from numerous sources, pleaded with me to search my hard drive for a file entitled "sulfnbk.exe". This is part of the message:

"A VIRUS could be in your computer files now, dormant but will become active on June 1. Try not to USE your Computer on June 1st. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS BELOW TO CHECK IF YOU HAVE IT AND TO REMOVE IT NOW. No Virus software can detect it. It will become active on June 1, 2001. It might be too late by then. It wipes out all files and folders on the hard drive. This virus travels thru E-mail and migrates to the 'C:\windows\command' folder. To find it and get rid of it off of your computer, do the following:"

Needless to say, I searched for the evil file, and sure enough, I HAD IT! So I highlighted the file and was ready to select delete, when I thought I would check it out first. I dropped by Snopes.com and looked it up. It was a hoax. The sulfnbk.exe program is part of the Windows system and is used to recognize long file names. I was a second away from deleting a system file that my computer needed because and email "told me so." Take this one step further. You get this message, and send it out to all of your customers, being a hero and saving them all from this impending virus. After a while you find out it's a hoax. Now your company (and you) is associated with not only being foolish, but getting people to remove system files from their operating systems. Not the vision with which I want my company to be aligned.

The same goes for the emails that say something like "if you forward this to 5 people (or whatever number it gives) you will receive money from Bill Gates, or free pants from the GAP, because you are helping test their email tracking system." The only problem with that is there's no such thing. No one is sending you free pants, no monkey will dance across your screen, and you will not find true love if you forward something within 2 minutes of receiving it.

A simple use of the BCC function and a little investigation will not only save face, but could very well save your job.

Scott Stratten is the President of Un-Marketing, a firm that works with business owners to help them become customer magnets. He uses proven methods of successful marketing to increase awareness and sales both within a company's current customer base and new ones. He recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fast Company and his articles have been published all over the world. Find out more about Scott at Un-Marketing .

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