A Sad, Sad Day for Project Managers – PM SPAM

Alex S. Brown, PMP IPMA-C

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  • Some people will remember 2008 for the US Presidential election. Others will remember the 2008 economy. I will remember 2008 for a different reason.

    For me, 2008 will be the year of project management spam.

    Unsolicited bulk commercial e-mail (spam) is a huge annoyance and economic force. Its impact has been growing for years. Men, women, and businesses get constant offers in their in-box:

    • Physical enhancements
    • Get-rich-quick schemes
    • Appeals from “lonely strangers”
    • Commercial services of all kinds

    Ironically, one of the most common types of spam are offers to sell you e-mail lists and services, so that you too can promote your product or service using spam.

    Until 2008, though, I had not seen any project-management based spam. I had gotten an occasional unsolicited promotional e-mail, but never a repeated, relentless campaign. I had never seen any company using spam as a regular tactic in their business.

    I had hoped that project managers had more respect and integrity.

    I had hoped that project management businesses understood that the use of spam would hurt their good name.

    I had hoped that project managers would understand that nothing is more important than their good name in a high-trust business like project management.

    I had hoped to never see an instance of project management spam.

    Fortunately, most businesses seem to understand respect and integrity. Unfortunately, at least one does not.

    It Does Not Matter Who Did It

    I am not trying to single out a particular company here. If you want to see who is doing this, look at the sample images I have attached. I am not linking to the company here or mentioning their name, because their name is not important.

    The important issue is stopping other project management spam.

    I went back to my e-mail archives and found the earliest evidence of a continuous, determined spam campaign starting in February 2008. If anyone is aware of an earlier spam campaign in the project management area, please let me know. I would be happy to post additional samples here.

    What Is Spam? Why Is It Bad?

    People interested in legal or authoritative definitions of spam can read extensive lists of articles on the topic. It is a huge issue for Internet marketers, governments, and legislators.

    Personally, I consider “spam” or “unsolicited bulk e-mail” to be anything

    • Advertising a product or service
    • Where I never signed up to get e-mail from that company
    • Where I am not a customer of that company

    Others have different definitions, but this is my personal test. Typical techniques of modern spammers include

    • Hiding who is sending the e-mail
    • Sending unwelcome commercial posts to distribution lists
    • Leaving out appropriate contact information (name, address, and phone)
    • Embedding key information in an image, to avoid spam filters
    • Including false “unsubscribe” offers

    Spam is bad. It

    • Annoys the person who receives it
    • Wastes valuable bandwidth and computing resources on the Internet
    • Is illegal in many jurisdictions

    Worst of all, it hurts the company sending it. It diminishes the reputation of the sender. It makes their product and service into a commodity. It cheapens their name and product. Often, spam is associated with criminal activities.

    Spam is just a bad idea, especially for the company sending it.

    Some Sample Spam

    I attached some sample spam messages:

    Some features they all have in common:

    • Sent from an e-mail address that is probably false (abc123 and so on)
    • Sent from an e-mail address NOT affiliated with the company (gmail and manage.com)
    • No company address or phone number in the message
    • The entire solicitation in an image, not in text
    • The “unsubscribe” link in the image
    • The same message sent to multiple addresses, including mailing lists where they do not subscribe
    • Same message sent from multiple addresses (makes it harder to block the spammer)

    The only thing unusual about these spam messages is the project management vocabulary. Usually project management professionals do not resort to spam to market their products.

    The company web site does include physical and e-mail addresses. I attempted to contact the company using these addresses, but got no response. I did not try to “unsubscribe” because usually that just encourages the spammer to send more spam. I cannot effectively block this company’s spam because they do not send their spam from a common, company address.

    What You Can Do

    I used to take pride in the fact that I had never received project management spam. I thought our industry was better than that. I urge all of you to help us all work together to elevate project management services and marketing:

    Make sure that your company never engages in these types of marketing techniques.

    Send messages to people who want to get your messages. If you want to do a broad-based marketing campaign, do the right thing. Buy advertising space in a recognized magazine, web site, or other publication.

    Resist the temptation to spam.