Do email marketing pundits have a responsibility to provide accurate information to their readers?  And what happens if they don’t?  Should they be held to account?  And what happens when they are held to account?  Should they take offense at someone challenging their incorrect information?  Should they set the record straight or should they get a pass for being a pundit?

Let me tell you a little story about an exchange I had with a pundit giving incorrect information; and a publisher that thinks it’s better to control the conversation by editing comments when dismissing the commenter doesn’t work….

Before I get too far along, I want to share another story; I had a new neighbor move in below me.  One weeknight around 1:30AM this guy is blaring break-up music with loud drunk singing (almost spoiled Little Lion Man for me), so I go down and knock on his door. 

Nothing. 

I knock again a little harder. 

Nothing. 

Third time brings out the cop-knock.  The music turns down and a second later Mr. drunk-and-feeling-sorry-for-himself peeks his head out the door. 

I ask if he knows what time it is. 

His response?  “I don’t like the way you knocked on my door.” 

Right….

Now that you know a little where my head is at on that sort of thing – like if you’ve ever read anything I’ve ever written you couldn’t tell – this should be fun.  Well, at least for me….

So yesterday I re-tweeted a link to a post, “17 Email Marketing Terms Every Business Should Know” with the comment, “got a cpl wrong“.  When asked, “which ones are wrong?I pointed them out

While one point that should be obvious to anyone that has ever read Orwell’s 1984 was accepted as a mistake, or poor analogy, but the other points, well, not so much….

Moving from Twitter to the post itself, I left a comment that included:

The generally accepted definition of delivery are those messages accepted by the receiving server – the number of messages sent less bounced.

The generally accepted definition of deliverability are those messages delivered to the Inbox.

To which the reply contained,

John: Regarding delivery vs. deliverability, you make some excellent clarifications. Just out of curiosity, where can one find these “generally accepted” definitions?

A little snarky, I thought; and after all, shouldn’t the author have done their own homework on the subject before posting with authority? 

But hey, I’m always happy to do someone else’s work for them, so I provided links to the definition of deliverability from the IAB (pdf), the DMA (pdf), the EEC, and a couple of others that included a quote from SMTP.com,

“beginners at email marketing often confuse these two distinct metrics”

I ended that comment with something along the lines of, always happy to do someone else’s work, and closed with “/sarcasm”.  You won’t see that part, though, or other comments that moved the thread from the definition of delivery v. deliverability to my sarcasm, because, well, I guess sarcasm is just too offense….  Welcome to the Ministry of Truth…. 

What was that quote from #eec11? “Social media is not about power over your customers, it’s about partnership” or something like that? 

Since I don’t have to worry about being edited here (pat me on the head now, Vahe), let me get back to the responsibilities of pundits….  

When faced with three industry associations all defining “deliverability” the same way and contrary to the information provided as one of those “17 Email Marketing Terms Every Business Should Know”, what’s the response?

There is not one single agreed upon industry definition for many of these terms. This was my version of them.

I was only talking about one term – deliverability. 

And there is an industry definition for it.  

And the leading industry associations all agree on the definition. 

And they all publish it online. 

I would think that someone attempting to teach others might have researched the subject a little bit, but, hey, that’s just me.  Like my friend, Margo, says, “We all make choices.”

Unfortunately some newbies may make the wrong choices based on incorrect information.  As Georgia from MailBlaze thinks,

this is a great reference, especially for newbies to the email marketing industry

So is it fair to newbies and people just learning the industry for a pundit to promote inaccurate information? 

What responsibilities does the pundit have? 

Does promoting inaccurate information following a lack of research bring the pundits subject knowledge into question?

Should the information be rewritten?  That is the job of the Ministry of Truth after all….  Don’t worry, I’ve kept a screenshot….

Should the post be appended – in transparency – with the correct information?  A good old fashioned retraction?  That would require admitting that there are in fact industry-defined terms, of course.

And what if other information in the same post is less than accurate?  Should everything be corrected at once, or do we knock them off one at a time?

Paraphrasing a comment that was edited from the post, 17 Email Marketing Terms Every Business Should Know, are there any standards or should we  just embrace mediocrity so that no one’s feelings are hurt?