Email marketing is a strategy used by nearly every political campaign on both sides of the partisan aisle. Yet, given how wide-ranging it is and how crucial it can be for influencing voters, current examples of political email marketing leave a lot to be desired.
Political emails when done right can help win elections, spur activists into action and help keep an honest and consistent connection between public servants and their constituents.
When done wrong, political emails annoy voters, end up in the spam folder and eventually become fodder for late night talk show hosts.
In this piece, we’re going to explore the best practices for political email marketing. The realm of email marketing is an exciting and dynamic place. But like many disciplines, it has its own set of rules and best practices. Political figures and organizations are not exempt from these rules.
We’ll look at common pitfalls to avoid, studies on political email deliverability and some actionable insights to make your political emails work for your campaigns.
If you’re involved in an election campaign or even if you’re running yourself, then this article is for you.
Who knows it might get your intended candidate to the Capital and beyond.
Political marketing email deliverability
One of the first rules of email marketing is actually getting your message into the inbox. Sounds simple right? Not always.
Email deliverability is a complex process reliant on a number of actions and settings that must go right in order for your message to end up in your customer’s inbox and not their junk folder.
How do you expect to win an election if you can’t even make it to your prospective voter’s inbox?
In 2019, cloud communications platform Twilio, released a report logging and analyzing the 2020 Democratic primaries’s candidates’ email messaging campaigns. The company signed up for their email campaigns on a Gmail account created for the study. They conducted the study for 30 days from July 10th to August 9th.
The results were lackluster, to say the least.
A whopping 21 percent of the then 26 candidates’ emails ended up in their Gmail account’s spam folders. At around 74 percent, a majority of the emails landed in their Promotions tab, while only a measly 3.8 percent of emails made it to their Primary tab.
Any email that winds up in spam poses a problem for campaigners looking to engage with voters or potential donors.
Twilio’s vice president of industry relations and writer of the report, Len Shneyder wrote that there were a number of reasons why these campaign emails ended up in Gmail’s spam folder.
Partly, this was due to suspicious text in the body of the email, having email lists that could have suspicious recipients and lack of proper email authentication technology.
Less than 50 percent of campaigns sent out from prospective candidates passed simple email authentication tests, which puts their recipients at a greater risk of being phished and possibly sharing sensitive information with scammers.
42 percent of campaigns had a missing or failed DMARC check.
Proper authentication makes it harder for bad actors to spoof from a sending domain. It also protects potential recipients from clicking on spoofed brand emails.
Likewise and most importantly for getting your message across, proper domain sender authentication improves your sending reputation and thereby makes sure your emails won’t end up in the spam folder.
There are three key technologies you need to have properly setup: Sender Policy Framework (SPF), Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain Messaging Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC).
It’s in your best interest to get these deliverability basics down first before you start sending.
Political email targeting and subscriber segmentation
The real fun starts after you land in the inbox. While the stakes are higher and the timeframes are quicker in the political marketing realm, which is why it’s all the more important to you employ some of the tried and trued best practices.
You need to properly analyze your list of potential voters and engaged citizens. Learn how to unlock their potential by gathering some crucial information. Here’s a few ways to do that.
1. Gather basic information from your political email list
Whether it’s national or regional, you need to split up your voters into segments based on a few key attributes. Name, age, gender, location and income are just a few things that come to mind. After these basics are covered, look into some more specific engagement metrics.
2. Send to your VIP email list subscribers
If one of your campaign goals is donations, then it doesn’t make sense to keep blasting the same message over and over again to a subset of your list that has already donated. They might feel cheated or annoyed, as they’ve already contributed. These are your most important subscribers. If you segment them into their own group, you can send more personalized messages that might rally them to come to a local meeting, forward your message to friends or volunteer for an event.
3. Personalized based on interests and demographics
Your candidate or cause is most likely running on more than one issue. Your subscribers will want to hear more than the same spiel. Differentiate your subscribers based on the issues that they care most about. Provide links to blog posts, announcements and other content that’s part of your overall campaign. Email is one of the best ways to disseminate this information in a quick and easy way.
Measuring political email campaign success
From the inbox to the ballot box. You should be tracking a number of metrics from your email campaigns. As we’ve previously discussed, landing in your prospective subscriber’s inbox is a must. These email-centric metrics should be one of your first priorities. After that you need to set actionable goals that relate directly back to the political campaign at large.
Here’s a few goals you can set.
Email is a great way to get connected and gather donations. Tracking conversions through email gives you a broader picture of how your efforts are paying off. Comparatively speaking, it’s more effective than sending out mass mailers which aren’t trackable and can’t be reviewed in one central location. You can extrapolate even further more fine-grained metrics from these initial conversion rates.
2. Pledged voters
What better way of securing the vote than by asking your subscribers if they intend on voting on election day. While this is by no means a guarantee, it’s a nice sentiment to have and can help with charting out more data-driven campaign strategies.
3. Surveys completed
Surveys paired with pledged voter counts can give your party or candidate a prospective review of where they stand prior to election. Surveys also help you get a better overview of demographics and give you more options to segment your subscriber list for detailed insights.
4. Volunteers signed up
This is an interesting metric that is mostly unique to political entities. Signed up volunteers are going to take the next important step and become even more involved in your campaign. They might be running local events, knocking door-to-door and in general become loyal advocates for your cause. A metric like this is a high-value and should most certainly be tracked.