Yet the 2015 General Election campaign provided a free masterclass in how to use medium.
For six weeks my inbox rattled with messages that made me smile, frown, and plain indifferent.
Now the polls have just closed as I’m writing this here are some feedback.
Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Labour emails arrived. Greens didn’t appear to have one and the SNP emails never arrived.
The winner of the email campaign as a recipient? From tone, engagement, wit and calls to action it was Labour. Hands down. And that’s an apolitical judgement, by the way. But of course, we don’t know the analytics, open rate and objectives.
In the last six days:
Liberal Democrat sent 6 – none on the final day.
Labour sent 14 – six on the final day.
Conservatives sent 9 – two on the final day.
How the Conservatives did…
In the last six days, emails from David Cameron (twice), Conservative Campaign HQ (twice), Boris Johnson, Samantha Cameron, Sajid Javid and William Hague.
On the last day, an email at 6.56am from David Cameron four minutes before the polls opened and at 1.20pm from Campaign HQ with a request to vote and share an embedded Facebook video from David Cameron that by polls close had 360,000 views.
The last week emails followed a formula of a direct personal greeting, a key message that reflected those shared by the campaign, an image and a request to share on Facebook and Twitter. Six parapgraphs and that’s about it. Short and to the point.
There was less emphasis on requests for funding with a £20 donate button as a last call to action.
Strength: Short and to the point, connected with the rest of the campaign with the aim of mobilising social media.
Weakness: A bit impersonal. Lacking in humour. You felt like a cog in a machine.
Best subject line: ‘About tomorrow, Dan…’
How Labour did…
In the last seven days, 14 and six on the last day. Messages from Ed Milliband as well as internal names such as national field director Patrick Hennegan, election campaign vice-chair Lucy Powell and Louise Magee from the fieldf team.
On the last day, 10.01pm a thank you for voting, 7.27pm a reminder to knock on doors, 5.09pm another appeal to get supporters out, 2.09pm an appeal for help in the constituency I live in, at 11.11am an image to share on social media saying ‘I’ve voted Labour: Share if you have too’ and 6.12am a request to get other Labour supporters to the poll.
In the last few days there were celebrity endorsements from Delia Smith, Steve Coogan and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Fundraising was a key aim for the emails. There were calls to action
Strength: Varied content and messages from people within the party who you felt may have wrote them. Through the campaign there was wit and slightly leftfield messages that made you stop and double take. Frequency could have been an issue but didn’t feel like it. You had a clear idea that you could help on the ground and make a difference.
Overall, the campaign majored successfully on fundraising and messages had a direct example of what the money would be spent on.
Weakness: Just two messages from politicians and both written as emails. The video card could have been played better.
Best subject line: ‘What’s worse?’
How the Liberal Democrats did…
In the last seven days, nine emails and none on the final day. Three were from Paddy Ashdown, two from Liberal Democrats and one from Nick Clegg.
John Cleese and Hugh Grant were involved in fundraising dinner dates and a drive to raise £20,000 for the final week. Messages were chatty, had calls to action but didn’t reflect key messages. There was no content to share on social media.
Strength: Chatty and human. Some clear calls to action around fundraising.
Weakness: There was little suggestion of what the Lib Dems were standing for and no messages on the final day was a serious oversight.
Best subject line: I won dinner with John Cleese!
Some things to learn
1. Messages on the key day – polling day – are a no brainer really aren’t they? And they are better being timely with clear calls to do something. Like help. Or vote.
2. Fundraising appeals work when they have something specific in mind. Donate £20 for marginal seats in the last week because you’d hate it if you just missed out? Sure. A button to donate on its own? Hmmm.
3. Use a mix of names and unknown names. A famous politician wrote to me? Really? Pull the other one. There’s something very double glazing salesman about thinking they actually wrote that note. Yet, there is a need to see a direct message. A video and an appeal to share feels right.
4. This is internal comms. All the parties got this. They weren’t appealing to the may-be’s, they were galvanising the supporters.
5. A request to post something on social media works. In public, it would seem like begging for an RT. That’s desperate. It’s okay to ask a supporter to support.
6. Short emails work. Six paragraphs seemed to be a popular number. That’s not much more than six or a dozen sentences.
7. Intrigue with subject lines. Make people open them with something enticing.
Creative commons credit