Can someone pls clarify Mass Emails vs Email Merge

  AroundAgain 14:26 12 May 2018

As the subject says, can someone please clarify what the difference is, if any, between 'mass email' vs personalised email merge, please? This is in respect of GDPR compliance

I am being told that doing an email merge is NOT the same as sending 'mass emails', using a list of contacts but I can't honestly say I can appreciate the difference. Obviously, I don't want to be non-compliant.

When I send such emails, I'm using Office 2010, so Outlook and email merge in Word, the source being contacts in Access

For various reasons, I'd rather not be getting back to the 'experts' at Head Office just now although I appreciate I possibly will have to eventually.

I'd really appreciate your thoughts. Many thanks for any help

  hastelloy 09:26 13 May 2018

No doubt you'll get a reply from someone who knows but, in the meantime, my best guess is:

A mass email is 1 email sent to many addresses at the same time. The danger with this is that, if all addresses are in the 'To' box, all recipients will be able to see all addresses.

Personalised email merge is where 1 email is sent to many recipients via a mail merge so that each email has only 1 email address on it.

  Ian in Northampton 09:36 13 May 2018

I’m no expert either, other than a regular sender of emails to multiple people, but I think hastelloy is broadly right. Here’s my take on it.

A mass email is sending the same email to multiple people with no degree of personalisation. To pick up on hastelloy’s point, though: that’s what ‘bcc’ is for. You send the email either to a pretend address, or your own, and put all the addressee email addresses in the bcc field. That way, no-one can see who else has received the email.

A personalised email merge would, in my mind, be one in which you would typically take your email address database and automatically insert recipients’ first names in the email. Thus, each recipient would receive an email addressed to ‘Dear John’, ‘Dear Peter, ‘Dear Michael and so on’. And, yes, each email would be individual with no other recipients.

So far as GDPR is concerned, though, I’d have thought the real issue is whether your proposed recipients – however you email them, whether mass or personalised – have given you their permission to send them email.

  hastelloy 10:47 13 May 2018

Ian in Northampton

I agree with all of your points. When I send to multiple addresses the 'To' box says 'Undisclosed recipients' (which automatically sends to my address). The exception is with (eg) a small group I belong to and we all know each others addresses anyway.

  AroundAgain 10:49 13 May 2018

hastelloy and Ian

Thanks very much for taking the trouble to respond.

I had looked on the internet regarding this question but I couldn't find anything to suggest any difference.

I understand what you are both saying, ie that email merging will send out individual emails to all on the selected list as opposed to one email going out to a number of recipients using bcc.

However, it seems Marketing can also use email merging to personalise large numbers of emails going out which will, undoubtedly, be regarded as 'mass' email and/or spam

So, I get back to my original question again and hence go round and round. It's doing my head in!!!!

Ian, in answer to your question, yes, the permission side of this is all OK but many thanks for thinking about it. It's obviously a very important factor.

  Ian in Northampton 11:40 13 May 2018

In my mind, the definition of 'spam' is unwanted email. It's nothing to do with quantities of email sent. If your recipients have opted in/given permission for you to email them, by my definition, what your marketing folks are sending them cannot be regarded as spam.

It is, though, as you imply something of a minefield that my company is also trying to work through. Fortunately, it's not me who has the responsibility of ensuring we're compliant :-) . I'm just waiting to hear...

  AroundAgain 12:13 13 May 2018

Thanks Ian

I'm just a volunteer for a local branch of a national charity. Unlike most of the branches, we work from our homes, not an office.

I do 'admin' and hold the Db (MS Access) of our volunteers and Membership (supporters) who pay an annual fee for being a Member. We have been told, from National office, that we do not need to get specific consent from the Members because part of being a member is to receive email updates if they have provided their email address. Also, I have been sending annual reminders by email up until recently but, for the past year, have been sending a reminder with our 3 x times a year Newsletter. This change was actually due to poor return from the emailed reminders so thought to try hard copy with Newsletter, hence not incurring extra cost.

I've been the one to look into the instructions sent from HQ and to tell the rest of the committee what we need to do and how to do it etc, being the most 'techie' amongst us on the committee. The instructions coming down from HQ have been very unclear, obviously not well thought through, very ambigious etc etc etc. So, it's been so diffucult trying to decide what is required. It also seems the charity is going a bit OTT, although I can understand why, and those that are passing down the instructions clearly have no idea what we actually do, eg what we do for Members plus another 'membership'-type thing simila to a lottery which another volunteer runs. We both use email merge to send out letters/info etc.

Even when emailing questions to the team who are dealing with the requirements re GDPR, they obviously don't read the question properly and give inappropriate advice, or totally ambigious advice.

Re email merge, I have been told that if emailing 'en masse' all emails must go via a 'Data-matching' system at National end whereas, emailing an individual is OK, regarding Members etc (which I do using email merge - hence I'm wanting to know the difference)

So, this is why I was hoping there may just be something that someone could explain exactly what the difference was between

As you've already given your thoughts, I'll go by the interpretation on here, unless/until I hear otherwise.

Many thanks for all your help

  Ian in Northampton 12:22 13 May 2018

High-ups not knowing what's going on on the ground and giving ambiguous direction? "Quelle surprise" as The French say... My pleasure to share what little I know with you, AroundAgain. Good luck!

  AroundAgain 13:46 13 May 2018

Thanks, Ian

Yes, hence it's all doing my head in.

They should have been on to this 2 years ago, not leaving it all to the last minute. Talk about digging your head in the sand, eh? Same goes for most other organisations, judging by the number of emails I've had saying they're 'updating their Privacy Policies' etc ;)

I appreciate all the support on here. Many thanks

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