Blue Utopia Blog

Building an effective email program

Thu, Sep 15, 2016 - 03:25 PM

Great, you've decided to put some effort into building a good email communication program with your constituents/supporters.  But where to start?  What tone to take?  What to talk about?  All great questions that usually keep this program where it is right now - nowhere. We've put together these 5 guidelines to help you get started and focus your efforts.

Focus on building your list

First start with the email addresses that you DO have – on linkedin, facebook, in the candidate’s rolodex, gmail, etc.  Get those into a dedicated email program – preferably one that is integrated to your supporter/donor database and updated automatically. 

Next, every physical interaction should include an effort to collect emails addresses.  At every event, every rally, and fundraiser, you should be collecting signups.

Advocate Online.  At the core of a political campaign is a set of common values and there are opportunities to build your audience around those.  Petitions are a great tool and in conjunction with social media, you can spread your reach to earn new supporters.  Depending on your campaign, opportunities can be as big as the impact of a coal train traveling through your area, to a neighborhood project.  Use these opportunities to engage your supporters, allow them to build your audience via social, and then build your audience with more supporters.

Forget the presidential campaigns.  Focus on creating valuable information

If you’ve succumbed to the calls to join the email list of a presidential or any high-dollar statewide campaign, then you’ve seen a systematic abuse of email as a way to try to fundraising a few dollars at a time, from every findable email address and nearly every possible day.  It’s a churn-n-burn system of sacrificing the long-term potential value of an email program for the near-term benefit of raising money to get elected.  Don’t emulate these campaigns!

Instead, treat your email program as an effort to deliver useful information to your constituents.  Talk about issue-related events and they relate to your campaign.  Go super-targeted and talk to a small segment about an incident in a specific neighborhood.  Car-wash fundraiser being held by a local school?  What a great opportunity to use your platform as a representative of your district.  These are just a few ideas that represent a completely different approach to your email campaign as a tool to build relationships and loyalty among your constituents.

An effective email campaign is not a 6-month campaign with an end-date

Most campaigns send out a big blast email after not being heard from for about a year and a half and immediately start deluging us with a barrage of emails asking for money.   For candidates that just held office, this approach ignores the opportunity to provide actual useful information to supporters during the time in office – an approach that would have made the pleas for money more effective.  The day after the election, a winning campaign should thank their supporters.  The week after that, they should transform their site into a slightly more legislative tone and begin communicating on the import of their job.  Taking this approach will consistently build your audience and their participation. 

Create emails that easily digestible

You’ve built your list.  You’ve taken a longer-term approach to email communication.  Great.  But people are already deluged with email.  So you need to create the content in a way that’s effective.  In short, that’s creating easy-to-consume content.  That means avoid long text-heavy updates, balancing your pictures with your text, and creating good subject lines.  Link updates in your email to individual pages on your website that go into more detail. 

Get your emails delivered.

This is really about the technical layer of delivering emails.  Do not think for a second, you can do this yourself from Outlook or Gmail.  Find a reputable email vendor that can deliver emails to your constituent’s inbox.  There’s nothing worse that spending time on a communication piece and then having an abysmally low read rate because most of them ended up on peoples’ spam box.  We wrote about Email Deliverability here.  

This post was designed for political campaigns and, as such, is designed as a quick start to the subject matter.  For more info on our approach to blog content, check out our Welcome Message: Scope and Intent.  




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