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Just Saying No to Newsletters

Here's how to keep your e-mail address off someone's fan club list—without alienating business contacts

Dear Liz,

I have begun to go to business networking events. I like to meet new people and exchange business cards. What I don't like is to be added to a person's newsletter mailing list without even being asked. It seems that people do this automatically now whenever they meet someone new. Is there a polite way for me to say, "Nice to meet you, but don't add me to your newsletter distribution list," when I meet them? That sounds rude when I say it. But I am getting fed up.



Dear Elias,

I agree with you that the preemptive approach might not be the best way to keep your e-mail address off someone's fan club list. Also, those gung-ho marketers who add every new acquaintance to a newsletter mailing list without permission probably wouldn't remember your specific don't-add-me request. I have a suggestion:

When you receive that first, unwelcome newsletter in your in-box, do two things. First, use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter to get yourself off the distribution list, pronto. Then, write a separate individual e-mail message to your new acquaintance, and say something like this:

Dear Jane,

Just wanted to write and let you know how pleased I was to meet you last night. Best of luck to you in your projects. By the way, an overzealous colleague of yours must have added me by mistake to your newsletter distribution list. I unsubscribed myself, but I wanted to let you know. Have a great week,



That way, you've gently reminded Jane that permission-based marketing requires permission. You may help her to think before adding every fresh stack of business cards she acquires to her newsletter database. If more people were gently assertive (as I suggest you be), fewer novice marketers would make the mistake of building subscriber lists using this method.



Liz Ryan writes her "Career Insight" column and answers readers' questions every week at She is an expert on the new-millennium workplace and a former Fortune 500 HR executive.

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