Back to Basics - Email Campaigns

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Do you have a friend who insists on @ mentioning you on Twitter, posting on your Facebook wall, texting you or sending you a LinkedIn message when an email would suffice? Some of mine may avoid phone calls by using one of those platforms, but I can't say my inbox looks any less flooded. Email remains as popular as ever, which is precisely why every advocacy organization sends thousands of them every week to members of Congress. So, how can you use this tool more effectively? By getting back to basics!

Be Transparent: Many advocacy groups choose not to include their organization's name in form letters, perhaps suspecting that staffers will doubt the value of emails sent on their behalf. In fact, the opposite is true: they want emails to come from a trusted organization. Plus, attempts to hide your organization fall victim to Google searches. Staffers can search the text from the form letter and identify the organization that started the campaign. Then they wonder why you're trying to hide your involvement.

Be Unique: Scroll through your inbox and find emails from other organizations and nonprofits - you'll notice that the structure of the email remains fairly similar throughout. A catchy subject line, something memorable, some facts to back it up, a link, more information, something nice that sums it all up, signature, and a P.S. line - did I hit the nail on the head? While these tactics may work, there are multiple roads on the way to email success. Take the one less traveled! Insert some graphics or switch up the 'order of events.' Provide easy buttons throughout the body of the email to take legislative aides to the information that most interests them.

Be Credible: Having your advocates ask members of Congress to "facilitate world peace" certainly has good intentions, but it's not likely to work. First, the action needs to sound credible enough to your community to want to engage. Then, it needs to hold enough weight for legislative aides to pass these emails up the chain. Make sure you're asking members to either co-sponsor (or stop co-sponsoring) an existing bill, or vote yes or no on a bill. When it comes down to it, as elected officials, that's all they're likely to do. Asking them to "facilitate world peace" or "work on clean energy" is a nice idea, but ineffective.

As with most things, it's important to test new email tactics to ensure effectiveness. The tips above should help you stand out in the crowd, but refining takes time and measurement. To learn how to track the effectiveness of all your digital campaigns, check out the resources at