Shortly after we sent last week’s newsletter with 5 Things To Do With Surveys, I got an email. 

The sender said they never got anything after completing a survey except spam calls. I could tell their frustration because they capitalized some words and used emphatic punctuation.

It got me thinking. Since we were children, we’ve heard some version of the phrase, “A promise is a promise,” to indicate that when you give your word about something, you are expected to do it. 

How well do promises made by creators go broken? How do you demonstrate a promise fulfilled or explain why it isn’t fulfilled? 

Reneging on a promise – with or without explanation – jeopardizes your and your content business’ relationship with your audience. If they can’t trust you to do what you say, they aren’t likely to want to engage with your content business.

Let’s look at a few of the common promises made by content creators and share some ways to keep them.

1. Your promise: We will never sell your information

Eager to own your audience and move away from rented land, you ask for their email addresses or other contact information in exchange for content – newsletter, e-book, podcast, video series, etc. Promises made by creators to never sell their subscribers’ information are done to make the request more attractive.

Two things might make you “renege” on that promise. First, your definition of “sell” and your new subscriber’s definition may conflict. You interpret “sell” in the strictest sense – your business hands over the database information to a third party in exchange for their money (fiat or crypto). Your subscribers are more likely to interpret the promise generously – you will never give their data to a third party. 

"We will never sell your information." If your definition of "sell" doesn't match your audience's, you've broken a perceived promise, says @AnnGynn. #ContentEntrepreneur Click To Tweet

How to fulfill it: Follow the generous definition of “sell” and never sell the data given to you in exchange for that promise. Going forward, stop making the promise and segment your database into no-sell promise subscribers and post-promise subscribers.

Or maybe you agreed with the broader definition of “sell” when you made the promise, but temptation comes knocking. A prospective sponsor comes along willing to pay a big price for your audience data. It’s your biggest brand offer to date and would mean you could pay the bills for the next six months. 

How to fulfill it: Never give your subscriber data to a third party. Even if they promise to use it one time, once the data gets into their system, it may be used again and again (intentionally or erroneously). Instead, give them access to your audience by sending a dedicated email on their behalf. Make it clear to the recipient with explicit from and subject lines, such as:

  • FROM: The Tilt on behalf of XYZ Partner
  • SUBJ: Special Offer from XYZ [Sponsor of The Tilt]

Going forward: Explain what you will and will not do with the subscriber data on the sign-up landing page and/or in your welcome email. Mention the possibility of marketing emails and explain how those marketing emails help make the content free (or at minimal cost) for subscribers. People are more likely to say OK if they know how it will help them.

2. Your promise: You can unsubscribe at any time

Technically, you fulfill this promise because if you don’t, you might get into legal trouble. But don’t consider technically compliant, a promise fulfilled. Often, creators (and big brands) bury the link in the middle of the fine print, hoping that the effort to find it will require too much effort and the potential unsubscriber will abandon the process.

Making it difficult to unsubscribe not only creates ill will with the person who wants to do it, but it’s also bad for your content business. Sure, you want as big of a subscriber base as possible. But if you monitor open and/or click-through rates, having this person – who won’t open or click on your emails – in your database will reduce those rates.

How to fulfill it: Publish “UNSUBSCRIBE” as a standalone word/link at the bottom of your email.

What about the people who want to pick what they unsubscribe from? If you give an all-in or all-out, they can’t unsubscribe from some and stay subscribed to others. 

How to fulfill it: Allow subscribers to decide what they want to unsubscribe from. You can include an UPDATE PREFERENCES link next to your UNSUBSCRIBE button. Or when someone clicks on unsubscribe, present a list of options based on your offerings, such as:

  • Unsubscribe from all correspondence from this business
  • Switch from daily emails to weekly emails
  • Opt out of all marketing-related emails

Just make sure to have your system set up to honor their revised subscription options.

SeedProd shares some great tips and examples for unsubscribe pages, including this one from Email Uplers, to help fulfill those unsubscribe promises made by creators. It gives potential unsubscribers a chance to change their preferences and has fun with it using this lead-in, “Phew! That was close. You scared us.” Then, it offers choices for frequency and type of email content.

Often promises made by creators revolve around the unsubscribe process. Give them options to fulfill that promise.

Caveat: Add an option on your unsubscribe page for the person to share a different email address. That’s helpful when they need to change email addresses but want to keep receiving your content.

Caveat: Set up your database to remove the information from those who unsubscribe right away. No need to stretch the defunct relationship for another week or two.

3. Your promise: Help us do (activity) for a chance to win

Back to the email from the person frustrated that she completes surveys and never gets the benefit promised. That frustration plays out in several ways for creator brands. You host a contest and only notify the winners. You offer rewards for referrals but never (or rarely) keep the participants updated on their progress (or worse, never deliver the rewards).

How to fix it: Share the information. If you host a contest or giveaway, announce the winners through your channels (it’s OK to just use the first name and first initial of the last name.) Consider sending a thank-you email to all who entered and letting them know who won.

If your #ContentBrand promises a prize, let all who entered know who won (first name, last initial is fine) in a thanks-for-entering email, says @AnnGynn. #CreatorEconomy Click To Tweet

With referral rewards, send out a quarterly statement or use a tool like SparkLoop to embed personalized referral counts into your emails.

Stay committed

Promises made by creators can be hard to keep. The best time to assess how to fulfill them is before you make them. But that doesn’t always happen, so when you make a promise, make sure to do a regular check to ensure they’re being fulfilled and fix things when they aren’t. Only then can your audience trust the words of you and your content brand.

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.