VOTE JOE: What Joe Biden’s email campaign can teaching comms people

Every election I’ll sign up for multiple party political channels. Why? Because they’re a petri-dish of experimentation you can learn from.

The US Presidential elections will see $2 billion dollars spent on each side that’s about £1.6 billion.

Since Joe Biden declared his candidacy on April 25 I’ve taken a look at his campaign emails.

They show how email works in a combined arms operation that blends TV, radio, TV, social media, face-to-face and email.

The importance of campaign emails

Back in 2010, I remember hearing Obama’s email strategist Joe Rospars of Blue State Digital talk at a conference to explain their approach to email. In earlier campaigns, nobody was monitoring the replies, he said. This changed. 

What also changed was that email campaigns were tested and retested. Three different subject lines were tested with small test groups with the most successful of these used for the majority of email subscribers.

The most successful of Obama’s email messages in his 2008 campaign was ‘We are in danger of being outspent.’ This particular subject line played on the fear that the rival Republican campaign would surge ahead with its messaging. 

That particular approach can be seen in the Team DNC email: ‘We could fall behind.’  

Here’s Biden’s campaign emails  

13.5.23 Joe Biden / I would love to give you a call soon

13.5.23 Team DNC / We could fall behind

12.5.23 DNC HQ / [TAKE ACTION] Make calls with the DNC to help keep control of the PA House!

12.5.23 James Carville / Dan, this is HUGE:

12.5.23 Team DNC / Here’s where we’re at: 

11.5.23 / ✈️ We want to send you and a friend to the Democratic National Convention:

8.5.23 Biden HQ / What we can expect, Dan:

6.5.23 Democratic National. / [EXCLUSIVE] Win a trip to the 2024 Democratic National Convention 🌟🎟️

6.5.23 / We’ll get right to it:

5.5.23 Biden HQ / [Get Involved] We want to hear from you!

4.5.23 James Carville / Dan, this is HUGE:

Dan, this is HUGE:

3.5.23 James Carville / Dan, this is HUGE:

Dan, this is HUGE:

2.5.23 2024 Democratic Con. Democrats / [WATCH] We want to make sure you’ve seen this clip from the 1996 Democratic National Convention 💃

2.5.23 / Thank you. Really.

30.4.23 Team Biden-Harris / re: our email to you →

30.4.23 Team Biden-Harris / FWD: 🚀 LAUNCHING: The Biden-Harris Founding Donor Fund

27.4.23 Presidential HQ / We need you now more than ever:

25.4.23 Jill Biden / I wanted to share something special with you, Dan

What this teaches you

Use different email addresses

In the two week snapshot of 18-emails there are 12 different email addresses. The candidate himself only sent one email where he addresses the audience directly with ‘I would love to give you a call soon.’

A single call to action is most common

Fourteen of the fifteen emails are please for fundraising. With $2 billion dollars to raise this is more important than stuffing envelopes or canvassing neighbours. 

Twice a day is okay 

With different email addresses being used it’s fine to email twice in a day at points during the day. 

A subject line that teases

The subject line encourages the recipient to open it. The tease is designed to provoke curiosity. You never really get the whole subject in the subject line. So, ‘We’ll get right to it:’ or ‘What we can expect, Dan,’ provokes curiosity.

With emotion, use fear sparingly

As we’ve seen, the ‘We could fall behind’ email comes from an earlier successful Presidential campaign. But look at the other email subject lines. The fear button that this generates is only used once. That makes sense. If all the content created panic what would that say about the campaign?  

Instead, they also use other emotions. The attraction of a prize win in some (‘We want to send you and a friend to the Democratic National Convention:’) as well as levity in others (‘Here’s where we’re at:’) and treating you as having the inside track in others (‘Dan, this is HUGE:’)

There’s also the personal, such as ‘I wanted to share something special with you, Dan’ or  ‘I would love to give you a call soon’
You can find the Joe Biden campaign here.

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