Email Strategy: Driving Digital Action

Three Things to Keep in Mind for Email Strategy

1.) As with all communications (and other actions on your campaign or initiative) every email is rooted in your theory of change.

2.) Even as digital and social media continue to grow and evolve, email is still the most important digital tool you have at your disposal. If you want results (i.e. online donations, constituent contacts to legislators), you want to send an email.

3.) Follow the “Golden Rule” – treat your supporters the way you would want to be treated by a campaign or effort you support.

Your email list is the best way to mobilize your supporters to take concrete actions, such as contacting a lawmaker, signing up for an event, or making a contribution. Email gives us the opportunity to reach our supporters where they are (at home, their office, or on their phone) and inform and activate them through messaging that we control (this makes it different than hearing about our work on the news, or from other people).

Dos and Don’ts of Effective Email Strategy:

DON’T send an email just to send an email – make each one intentional, thoughtful and designed to meet your theory of change!

Most of us get more emails each day than we want or can read – don’t be a part of that problem. Every email should fit within your overall and narrative and your theory of change. However, that doesn’t mean every email needs to be reactionary. You can plan for emails to make fundraising solicitations, ask for event RSVPs, or seek volunteers for a specific event – make your own moment whenever you can!

DON’T send an email without a clear action link!

This is critically important for two reasons: 1.) We need to offer our supporters a role in the solution to our theory of change. 2.) If we don’t provide a clear, clickable link, the only link in the blast email will be the link to unsubscribe; we don’t want to make that our supporters’ only option for a place to click!

Generally, you should offer your supporters multiple opportunities to click on a link throughout the body of your email, because most people scan emails, rather than reading them closely.

Be clear and direct in the language for your action links. For example, your hyperlinked text might say “Click here to make a contribution to our campaign to pass an LGBT non-discrimination law!” Don’t make your supporters wonder or guess – make it as clear as possible what you want them to do and how to do it.

DON’T always ask for the same thing!

Repetition is boring – it’s that simple. There will always be certain actions for which you’ll make repeat requests, and that’s okay. However, if all (or most) of your messages contain the same ask, your supporters will recognize the pattern and think “I’ve already donated to this campaign recently, and I know they’re going to ask again – I don’t need to read this email.” Or, perhaps, “I can’t donate to this campaign right now and that’s what the last four emails have been about. I’ll delete this email.”  Another advantage of making various asks is that it gives people with different interests and abilities opportunities to get involved. Some folks will have time to volunteer but not resources to make regular contributions. Others might want to attend an event where they lobby their legislator in a group, even if the idea of calling their legislator directly makes them nervous.

DON’T use a misleading subject line!

Our campaigns are building relationships with our supporters. Like any relationship, trust is absolutely essential – we want, and need, our supporters to believe us when we communicate. “BREAKING: LGBT Non-Discrimination Bill in Danger” would potentially be a very effective subject line. Imagine, however, if you opened an email with that subject and the body explained that wasn’t actually true. You would probably feel tricked, and likely view future emails from that source with skepticism. All these rules work together, and if your email has a real purpose, you won’t need a misleading subject line.

DO limit your email to one strategic ask!

“We need you to volunteer, to donate, to join us at this event AND contact your lawmakers – TODAY!” How would you feel if you received an email asking for all of those things? Don’t overwhelm your supporters with multiple asks, it makes them much more likely to take no action at all. Instead, ask them for the one, strategic thing your campaign needs the most in that moment.

Possible exceptions: Sometimes you can use the “P.S.” of your email message to make a secondary ask. For example, your highest priority might be to get attendees at a critical committee hearing in your state’s capital. If you have 5,000 supporters on your email list, it’s not likely that all 5,000 will be able to take the day off from work and attend the hearing – even though it’s what you need most. In a case like this, you might consider using the P.S. to add. “P.S. If you can’t join us at the statehouse on Wednesday, click here to email your lawmakers right now, before the hearing, and let them know you support this bill.”

DO track your emails to learn how your list operates!

You should track these metrics from every email: The percentage of your list who opened your email; the number (or percentage) of people who clicked on your link; the number of people who completed the requested action (i.e. made a donation, signed up for an event). You should also track which subject lines, send times, and days of the week your list responds to best. This doesn’t require any fancy statistical analysis – you can accomplish what you need in a simple Google spreadsheet.

DO use the “Ladder of Engagement”!

The Ladder of Engagement is the term for gradually building a new supporter’s involvement in your work. We want to be offering our supporters ways to increase their engagement in our efforts, say from simply receiving email updates to taking an online action, such as signing a petition. However, like a ladder, this process has steps. Imagine if you signed up for email updates from a new organization and their first message asked you for a contribution of $500 – that would be jumping from the bottom rung of our Ladder of Engagement all the way up to the top, skipping the rungs in between. Instead, we want to ease and guide our supporters into taking more robust action, all the while reminding them why their involvement fits within our theory of change.

DO link to a customized landing page that matches the messaging of your your email!

People hear the word “customized” and often fear we’re encouraging them to do lots of extra work or retain a web developer to build fancy, new pages – that’s not what we’re saying. What we are saying is that the language, and any associated graphics or pictures, from your email message, should match what people see when they arrive at your landing page. For example, if the ask in your email is “Donate today to help us pass Bill 99 in 2016!”, the headline of your landing page should reflect and/or directly match that. In most CRMs (Salsa, NGPVAN, Kintera) this is a quick and easy edit that can dramatically improve your conversion rates (the percentage of people who complete an action once they’ve arrived at your landing page). If you don’t do this, people may think they’ve arrived at the wrong page, or that the action you’re asking them to take isn’t actually related to the page they’re on.

DO use a simple, clear email template!

Go to your email account and search for the latest email blast from a leading candidate for state or federal office – we’re willing to wager that what you’ll see is a simple, mostly text email. In all likelihood, the email has a simple header (such as a logo), a section of body text with and a footer with a button or buttons to take action. These multimillion dollar campaigns – with digital staffs in the dozens – aren’t using simple email templates because they don’t have the time or resources to make something fancy; they’re doing it because it works. Especially as more and more (around 50 percent) of users will interact with your content from their phone or tablet, simple templates that look good across various screen sizes are essential to running a successful digital campaign. Further, avoid cluttered templates with sidebars or other details that distract from the primary ask of your email.

Template Emails

Hearing scheduled in State Senate on RFRA in 7 days

It’s official, %%Firstname(friend)%%. In exactly one week from today, the [STATE NAME] Senate will hold a hearing on the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA).This bill would have sweeping unintended consequences and could open the floodgates to discrimination in Georgia by giving individuals and businesses the right to ignore any law—including non-discrimination laws—in the name of religious freedom.

Right now, we have only 7 days to let [the committee]/[our Senators] know that we oppose this bill—and we need to act fast.

[FOR PUBLIC HEARING]: Submit your testimony now to urge lawmakers to vote NO on this harmful discriminatory bill. Click here to fill out a quick form and we’ll rush your testimony directly to the committee before next week’s hearing.

[FOR CLOSED COMMITTEE HEARING]: Click here to rush a message to your Senator(s) urging them to vote NO on RFRA and keep discrimination out of [STATE NAME].

Let’s make one thing clear, %%Firstname(friend)%%—RFRA is not about religious freedom, a right that is already protected in [both the state] and the federal constitution.

This bill’s real intent is to give individuals and businesses an excuse to ignore critically important laws including those meant to protect us all. Under RFRA, gay and transgender [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] could legally be denied service. An abuser could argue he has the right to discipline his family as he sees fit, according to his religion. And a landlord could deny housing to a single mother citing his religious views.

Simply put: there is nothing to gain—and a LOT to lose—if this mean-spirited bill advances. RFRA is bad for families, bad for our economy and a serious threat to the future growth of our state.

What happens next week will determine if legislation allowing individuals and businesses a “license to discriminate” will advance in [STATE NAME]. It’s time for our elected officials to hear us loud and clear—[STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] do not stand for discrimination.

Click here to send an urgent message telling your lawmakers to oppose RFRA before it’s too late.

Every message counts when a right-to-discriminate bill that will harm real [STATE NAME] families is on the line. Thanks for taking action.

[NAME]

[TITLE], [CAMPAIGN NAME]

Volunteer Recruitment

If you’re serious about stopping RFRA, %%Firstname(friend)%%—it’s time to step up.Right this very moment, lawmakers are considering this harmful legislation that would open legal floodgates and leave thousands of [STATE PEEPS] vulnerable to discrimination.

We’re pulling out all the stops to make sure we stop RFRA in its tracks—but we need your help.

Click here to get involved and join the ranks of community members dedicated to fighting RFRA at the local level.  

The freedom of religion is one of our most fundamental rights—as [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] and Americans. That’s why it’s enshrined in our constitution and is a core part of who we are as a state.

But the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” isn’t about protecting religious freedom at all. It’s about discrimination, plain and simple. It’s about allowing anyone—or any business—to use their religious beliefs to ignore any law meant to protect all of us from harm.

If RFRA passes, it would put thousands of people in [STATE NAME] in danger.

That’s where you come in, %%Firstname(friend)%%. It will take [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] like us rolling up our sleeves and ensuring that the policies of our communities reflect our values.

Can we count on you? Click here to pitch in at the community level and take a stand against the “license to discriminate” RFRA bill.

We’ve got a lot to get done but I’m confident that with dedicated community members like you on our side, we can accomplish what’s needed to ensure that [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] in every corner of our state are protected from discrimination.

I look forward to continuing this important work with you. Thank you for all that you do,

[NAME]

[TITLE], [CAMPAIGN NAME]

Donation

I won’t sugarcoat it, %%Firstame(friend)%%—we have a tough fight against us.Proponents of the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) will stop at nothing to pass this legislation that would leave thousands of people, including hardworking LGBT [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] open to discrimination.

But momentum is stronger now than ever before. And [CAMPAIGN NAME] has a winning plan to ensure that no [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] faces discrimination because of who they are or whom they love—but to run the campaign we know we need to win, we need more funds in our account.

Can you pitch in? Give $6 to fuel our continued efforts to protect all [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] from discrimination.

Let me tell you exactly what those efforts are. In the coming months, [CAMPAIGN NAME] will:

[EDIT THESE AS NEEDED]

  • Collaborate with key partners in [GROUP NAMES i.e. the business and faith communities, public sector, etc.] to create a unified front in opposition to RFRA.
  • Mobilize a strong and coordinated grassroots effort to pressure lawmakers at key junctures and urge them to reject discrimination legislation.
  • Work with cities and counties to adopt comprehensive non-discrimination policies at the local level in order to provide important protections for LGBT [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] until they are passed statewide.

It’s high time to bring the law in line with our values by guaranteeing that no hardworking [STATE PEEP i.e. Georgians] can be denied service, kicked out of their home or fired from their job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But right now: This fight is far from over. And we need to make absolutely certain we have the resources it takes to win this thing once and for all.  

That’s why we’re asking you now to step up and chip in with a $6 contribution to help advance laws that reflect [STATE NAME] values of fairness and respect.

Together, we can—and will—make those changes. And we won’t rest until every LGBT Hoosier is fully protected under the law.

[NAME]

[TITLE], [CAMPAIGN NAME]

Vote is Today

It all comes down to today, %%Firstname(friend)%%.At [TIME], the [STATE NAME] [House/Senate] will gavel into session—and shortly after, your [Representative/Senator] will vote on [BILL #], legislation that would allow individuals and businesses a “license to discriminate” against LGBT people under the guise of their religious beliefs.

What happens today will absolutely decide the fate of this discriminatory legislation.

[Email/Call] your [Representative/Senator] and urge them to vote NO on the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act today. Click here to [rush a message to your lawmaker(s) before the [TIME] deadline/enter your information, and we’ll connect you directly with their office immediately].

Let’s make one thing clear: When members of the [House/Senate] vote today, they aren’t just voting on a single piece of legislation. They’re voting to determine what kind of state [STATE NAME] will be for years to come.

Will [STATE NAME] be known as a state with our welcome mat out? Or will we be regarded as a state that explicitly allows any individual or any business to use religious beliefs to ignore any law just so that they can discriminate against LGBT people?

That’s not the [STATE NAME] I know and love—and I know you agree. That’s why we have to keep up the pressure until the last possible second to ensure our [Representatives/Senators] reject this legislation today.

Right now, your lawmaker(s) [is/are] deciding how they will vote on the [House/Senate] floor today. Let them know that if they are representing you—and a majority of [STATE PEEP i.e. Georgians] who believe discrimination is wrong—they must vote NO.

Click here to [email/call] your [Representative/Senator] before it’s too late—and together, let’s stop RFRA on the [House/Senate] floor today.

As always, we’ll keep you updated from the [Statehouse/Capitol]. Thanks for everything you’re doing.

[NAME]

[TITLE], [CAMPAIGN NAME]

Victory

I have amazing news, %%Firstname(friend)%%: RFRA is dead!After [TIME FRAME] of dedication, lawmakers finally heard us and [ACTION i.e. decided NOT to bring RFRA to a vote/voted NO on RFRA].

At last, our hard work has paid off—and we’ve got a LOT to be proud of. Together we:

  • Built an impressive and diverse coalition of [GROUP NAMES i.e. faith leaders, major players in the business community, leading civil rights activists, etc.].
  • Mobilized unprecedented grassroots support that generated [#] letters to lawmakers.
  • Hosted [INSERT EVENT NAME i.e. one major Lobby Day, one major rally at the Capitol, # volunteer phone banks that flooded legislator’s phone lines [TIME FRAME i.e. through the night, 24 hours non-stop, etc.]] that brought together [#] of [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians], united in the battle to defeat discrimination in [STATE NAME].

Today, [STATE NAME] took a big step forward. And we are incredibly grateful to you—the grassroots supporters who made it all possible—and to lawmakers who stood with us, and a majority of fair-minded [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians], and said NO to the “license to discriminate” RFRA bill.

If today’s decision has proven anything, it’s that [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] of all backgrounds believe discrimination is wrong—and we will stand united against divisive attempts to harm our friends and neighbors.

Though we take time today to celebrate a hard fought victory—this historic campaign doesn’t end here.

[CAMPAIGN NAME] remains deeply committed to ensuring that our state is open for business and welcoming to all people. Moving forward—with your help—we will advocate relentlessly for statewide non-discrimination protections, explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Now let’s commit to what’s next: Click here to add your name if you’re all in to fight for updating [STATE NAME] state law to protect LGBT people from discrimination.

This is the start of something big. If you think we took a step forward today, just wait until the day we can celebrate making [STATE NAME] a state that clearly protects ALL of its citizens from discrimination.

It has been an honor to work alongside [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] like you, and I know you’ll continue to stand with us in the fight for fairness.

Thank you for everything,

[CAMPAIGN NAME]

Loss

This is not the email I was hoping to send, %%Firstname(friend)%%.Today, [STATE NAME] [Senators/Representatives] voted to pass the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), giving individuals and businesses the right to ignore laws and discriminate against LGBT [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] and others just because of who they are or whom they love.

The [Senate/House] vote flies in the face of a majority of [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] who believe discrimination is wrong. No matter which way you cut it: This is a shameful moment in [STATE NAME] history.

But we know now what we did when we started this fight—a majority of [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] oppose discrimination and oppose this law.

If you agree that [STATE NAME]’s harmful RFRA law doesn’t represent the [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgian] values that you hold dear—values of respect and fairness—let your legislators know right now.

Across the nation and around the world, people are looking at our state and wondering if it’s full of people who support this hateful new law.

We’ve seen this play out in other states—not only do RFRA laws put gay and transgender people at risk of discrimination, they inevitably make it harder to attract top business talent and severely stunt economic growth in the long-run.

Bottom line: When our lawmakers voted today to pass RFRA—ignoring the tens of thousands of calls, emails, and petition signatures urging them to oppose this bill—they inflicted incredible damage that will cost [STATE NAME] for years and years to come.

But we know that the RFRA law that legislators passed is in no way representative of [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgian] values. It doesn’t change the fact that [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] are fundamentally fair-minded people, or that we’re standing on the right side of history. And it’s certainly not the end of this fight.

We need to remind our elected officials that their job is to vote for OUR values, not to advance an extreme agenda that will leave thousands of [STATE PEEPS i.e. Georgians] vulnerable to discrimination and hurt our economy.

Email your legislators right now and say: This “license to discriminate” law doesn’t reflect my [STATE PEEP i.e. Georgian] values, and it’s an embarrassment to our state.

We simply cannot let our legislators off the hook for this harmful law. We will fight on.

[NAME]

[TITLE], [CAMPAIGN NAME]

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