A site visitor was curious and pondered:
I am organizing a grass roots green event in my area. It is basically an environmentally minded social gathering. The whole point is to get as many people from as many different disciplines as possible together. So I want to send out an email invitation.
However, I do not personally know some of the people that I want to invite. For example, there are some organizations in the area that are environmentally minded. But I have not actually met them yet.
Also there are the municipal planners and government officials that I would like to let know about the event, people from the local university, etc.
Is it inappropriate to email them even if I can easily locate their email addresses on their websites?
It’s all about the approach. Sending of any unrequested emails regardless of how important the topic is to the sender, is still technically spam. The last thing you want is to have your event tainted by those who may not agree. Or to have folks correlate your event with unsolicited emails.
Use This Approach
With that said, being you are not “selling” anything in the email itself and it is more of an invitation, with the proper approach you can minimize a potential negative impression. What I would do is tailor each email to the person/organization you are emailing.
Include specific details about their org and what they do to show why you believe their attendance would be of interest to them. Make a point of explaining what the benefit of their attendance would be for them — and the community.
Putting forth the extra effort shows you take great care to not be spammy. Recipients will be more open to stated benefits versus a sales pitch.
Let them know that if they are interested you would be pleased to send more information via either a PDF or by snail mail (USPS). Include your website URL so they know where to get more information or to register. (Great idea if you want to get a handle on how many will attend.)
The Best Way?
Include an easy to find place on your website where folks can get on your mailing list for that kind of stuff. This then gives you the ability to build your list.
You then have permission to email them about future events. Because email addresses are on a website that doesn’t give you tacit permission to send sales-pitchy mass emails about things you will commercially benefit from.
I wrote an article about Cold Calling via Websites that you might find helpful. Just know that taking the time to personalize each email and emailing selectively will better your chances in leaving a positive impression for your brand.