At the end of an overlong trip to Europe, I was elated to be finally heading home across the Atlantic. Grasping my boarding pass, I was trudging in a slow line to the obligatory security chore when the message came over the public address system of London’s Gatwick Airport: Effective immediately, the airport was closed until further notice. Soon, the value of email as a lifeline in times of crisis became clearly evident.

The Volcano That Shut Down A Continent

The creeping ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano shut down virtually the entire air operations of a continent with me caught right in the middle of it, and woefully unprepared at that. Without my laptop or much in the way of spare clothes, the drama began to unfold. Gatwick Airport soon looked like a refugee camp with entire families sleeping on the floor unable to pay the usurious prices the profiteering London hotels had suddenly begun to charge. Dumpy run down B&Bs zoomed their rates to well over GBP100 (US$150) a night, and even mid range hotels were asking for four times that much, if they had any vacancies at all. Although European Union law seems to guarantee that airlines should pick up the living expenses of stranded passengers, many airlines, including mine, basically told us all that we were on our own and good luck.

Email Became A Way To Ensure Continuity In The Crisis

Throughout the sheer madness of the following days, email contact became a lifeline for me and for the well over one million passengers who found themselves stranded far from home. The queues to the handful of public Internet terminals at Gatwick Airport stretched all the way down the hall. Passengers tapping away around the clock were asking relatives and friends to assist them in a myriad of activities, from helping in making alternate travel arrangements to dropping into their homes in order to water their plants.

Email Is The Most Accurate & Factual Method Of Communication

It is very easy for email marketers to lose perspective on what the medium actually is all about. We can tend to get so distracted in the discussions about conversion rates and other esoteric statistical factors that we fail to see email as the most accurate, factual, and popular method of communication in the 21st century. As such, it not only deserves our respect but also an application of profound subtlety and tact in our utilization of such an important medium.

Email Is Important, Even Indispensable To Your Customers

It is inconceivable to consider a modern world without email. In the few days after the shut down of European airspace, I sent and received literally hundreds of emails containing so much important content that it would have taken many hours of extremely expensive long distance calling to even come close. It wasn’t idle chatting or social network blather, it was a vital exchange of information that held the hopes alive of actually and eventually getting home. In that milieu, marketing emails that littered my email with offers for irrelevant products were seen as an invasion and a distraction. However, a few of which arrived were relevant to the trials I was undergoing, and thus were sincerely welcomed! That factor is one that email marketers should take into careful consideration. We have chosen to communicate our brand values to a widespread audience through the facilitations presented by the email medium and we need to acknowledge the momentous role it plays in our customers’ lives.

If we as email marketers want to assure true relevance to our communications, then we must take steps to demonstrate to our readers that we hold the medium itself in high regard, and recognize that we are being invited into the inboxes of our customers as guests. Our readers are not doe-eyed masses waiting to be milked of their credit card numbers, they are individuals with hopes and dreams and expectations, which we must recognize and respect. Through meticulous application of ethical, considerate, and responsible email communication, we are transmitting not only discount coupon codes and special offers, but also our brand reputation and our deeply held appreciation for having been granted the privilege to participate in our readers’ email lifeline stream. Let’s always keep that foremost in our minds whenever we are concocting the latest email marketing campaign.