Can I Help You?

Star of Life

Star of Life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just finished an Emergency Medical Responder course. I’m not a paramedic, I’m not even an EMT, but I am now qualified to stop and give people help until those folks show up. As I reflect on the course, I see some parallels to email marketing. Over the next few days, I’ll be talking about some of those.

One of the things that is important in dealing with patients at the scene of an incident is getting permission. Even a doctor who walks up on a scene has to ask consent before beginning to treat, no matter how bad the injuries appear to be.

Why? Because someone who is conscious and rational has the ability to refuse treatment, no matter what the responder thinks is best. If a responder rushes up and begins treating without consent, it’s assault.

Do you see the parallel?

You cannot walk up and just start treating someone, even when you think that their life is in danger. You cannot send email to someone for your service or product just because you think it is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Often the excuse for not getting permission before mailing is that “people need to know about this!” But, someone with arterial bleeding needs for that to stop. And yet, before I can rush up and slap a dressing on that, I have to ask for permission first.

And so, upon entering the scene I have to say: “My name is Mickey and I am a trained emergency medical responder. Can I help you?” Sometimes that answer will be yes, but sometimes it will be no. If the answer is no, then I can try other methods of persuasion to get permission, but I cannot just start treating.

You can only assume permission when the victim is unconscious. Other than that, you have to ask and respect the answer.

In February, Laura Atkins posted about companies who “take permission” instead of ask for it. But you have to ASK. I cannot walk up to a victim and say “My name is Mickey and I am a trained emergency medical responder. I’m going to treat you.” That’s taking consent, not requesting it. It is inappropriate in medicine, and it is inappropriate in email marketing.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that email marketing is just as vital or important as saving a human life. But, when you consider that in something that is as important as emergency medicine actual consent must be obtained first, why should you consider that consent or permission is less vital in something like email?


  1. Laura Atkins (2010, February 26), Taking Permission. Retrieved from

Categories: Spam

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