Email Campaigning by Mark Pack & Edward Maxfield

By at August 19, 2013 | 1:19 pm | Print

Email Campaigning by Mark Pack & Edward Maxfield

Mark Pack

Many of your voters are younger than email. Isn’t it time you started using it?

Email matters. It is the oldest, and still often the most effective, online campaigning tool. It does not get the same glitzy attention as whatever the newest, latest technology does but smart internet campaigners know that a well-run email list lies at the heart of successful online political campaigns.

Email is powerful because it lets you push out messages when you want to (unlike, say, a website, which relies on people coming to you when they want to); it lets you divide the audience into different segments to receive different messages at different times (very hard to do with, for example, Twitter); and it is a good driver of traffic to other online activities.

It also adds speed, convenience and topicality to the armoury of more traditional campaigning techniques. So it means you can reach hundreds of people with your message quickly even in rural  areas or in bad weather. It can help you build a sense of momentum and urgency to your campaign – letting people know straightaway about an important decision affecting their community; about a fundraising target being met or about a candidate being chosen to trigger the start of a campaign.

All of those benefits require you to have a decent number of email addresses, and it takes time to build up a good list. So start early and widely advertise the ability for people to join your email list – not only via the website and social media, but also in printed literature, in sign-up forms passed around at events and when your team are talking to the public on the phone or on doorsteps.

Once you have someone on an email list, you need to keep them. Too many emails can put people off but (as with leaflets through the letterbox) complaints about too many usually really mean that they are not interesting enough. If people are really interested, they will happily receive large volumes of communication. A good test for each email is to check whether a recipient can work out the answer to the question ‘Why have I been sent this email and why now?’ Timely information about changes to local bus services passes that test; a long screed of policy does not.

The three numbers a campaign should keep careful track of are the number of people on the email list, the open rate and the click-through rate. Email open-rate statistics are provided by most of the email-management services available, and indeed they are one of the main reasons for using such a service (along with the fact that the good ones sort out all the complicated technical work for you and also make it easy to send emails in both HTML and plain-text versions).

Knowing roughly how many people open each of your emails is rather like knowing how many people return a residents’ survey. If you know the number you can experiment with the design, content and timing (very important as readership varies greatly depending on whether you send the email at a good or bad time) to see what gets the best response. If you do not know the number, you are working blind and almost certainly not getting the most out of your communications.

Some people like also keeping an eye on the unsubscribe rate, and there is no harm in doing so, although in our experience it does not add to what you learn from the open rate.

What does is the click-through rate. Knowing how many people click on the links in your email and which links they click on again is crucial to being able to produce emails that work effectively.

It is all too easy to think that hitting ‘send’ on lots of emails means job done. It is only job done if they are read and acted on.

This lesson was taken from our book, 101 Ways To Win An Election which in addition to the 10 in this series has another 91 for you to learn from! Buy the book

Dr Mark Pack is the co-author of 101 Ways To Win an Election and former Head of Innovations for the UK’s Liberal Democrat party, where he ran the party’s 2001 and 2005 online general election campaigns. His internet campaigning firsts include arranging the first British political party leader on Facebook and the first British election candidate website to take online donations.

@markpack on Twitter

Dr Edward Maxfield has worked as a campaigns and communications professional for over a decade. He currently runs the constituency office of Norman Lamb, UK Member of Parliament and Health Minister in the Coalition Government. Ed was a member of the Liberal Democrats’ national campaigns team from 2001 to 2006 and has also worked as a lecturer, a lobbyist and for some of the world’s biggest business consultancy firms.


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