Many of us love digital ops in campaigns because they give us solid, auditable numbers that we can trust. Did we inspire a desirable action from the reader? Does a click mean that we produced all the action we wanted? Could we have produced a desirable (and measurable) alternate action?
While this is easy to confirm with online donations, it’s much tougher with other actions we need to advance a campaign to victory. A big part of the answer depends on what we said to the reader, and what action we specifically requested.
And did we consider a desirable alternate action and provision to measure that from the email? Often the desired action is a donation, but we know not every recipient is going to donate. Do we give them an alternate path to signal strong support that we can measure and then capitalize on in the future?
Here are some ways campaigns can optimize their email programs and find the right metrics to gauge their audiences’ responses.
Content Is Still King
Many email senders with perfect Sender Policy Frameworks (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) headers and other good sending infrastructure are still landing in spam folders solely because of their content.
That’s an unforced error.
We can avoid furnishing the very flags that the spam filter is seeking. Subject length is still a big item and very easy to check. Going over forty characters still puts you in danger. But subject length has a human element, too. If the reader can take in the entire subject with a glance, that email is much more likely to get opened, especially if it contains a strong verb.
Devoting just one minute to shortening your subject is well worth the effort.
I smiled twice recently when two candidates I watch inadvertently performed their own A/B email tests. I was glad to call their attention to the fact that their email with a short subject got far more response than their email with a long subject.
Both these candidates were already omitting the collection of social media links that are so easy to detect. Any spam filter can use those easy-to-identify social links to classify your email as such, so why put that bait in every email?
At the end of July during the dreaded FEC deadline surge, I saw two candidates who really set themselves apart. They didn’t suggest that they were hiding under the bed from their adversaries, and they didn’t ask for a donation before the FEC deadline. They simply reported work they had accomplished in their communities (“we helped raise $80,000 for scouting scholarships”). Donations surged for these candidates (I asked) and readers engaged because, well, people like leadership and service from their elected officials.
Measuring Field Engagement Accurately
It’s so easy for us to forget that clicks and joins are not the end all, be all of a campaign. In fact, I’m obligated to furnish structures and metrics to prove to campaign seniors that we are actually getting people out the door to walk into campaign HQ, appear at a rally, attend a work party, walk a precinct, or dial voters from home.
But with modern tools like NationBuilder (just one of many good platforms) it’s easy to design response structures that can prove to campaign senior staff (in a provable, auditable manner) just how many people are taking action in the real world, then automatically flag those responsive audiences (and individuals) so they can be called upon again in the future.
The Starter Path: RSVPs
When emailing about an event, it’s OK to be a bit coy and state that the exact location will be disclosed after RSVP’ing (in the RSVP thank-you email so they don’t get the address from just visiting the RSVP page). You can energize this little trick by putting an “elite” spin on it and offer the respondents seating in an elite VIP area in the front. Or something similar. Be creative.
You don’t need to undertake this for every event, but doing it at least two-three times in a campaign can yield valuable insights. Harvest your RSVP figures and report; then study for audience insights.
Contact with various campaign forms online can be considered a form of digital engagement, but I prefer to consider that as developing the relationship. I tend to call it engagement when someone walks out the door or starts dialing the phone — or trivially, clicks “reply” to an email.
Other Real-World Metrics
Your choices aren’t limited to RSVP pages to push digital activity into real-world results. Completion of petition pages and endorsement pages on the website can be the digital precursor to real-world activity.
You can offer VIP seating areas at events, or a seat at the candidate’s table at a dinner in exchange for signing an endorsement or petition online. Or offer special swag. To qualify, require folks to engage.
Wrap in other activities such as posting to Facebook or signing a petition or endorsement to grant entrance to a special RSVP page (your platform should be set to block people from any action page who didn’t complete the requested activity). You can also furnish special edition bumper stickers or limited edition staff T-shirts based on the same activities—make them appear at an event to take delivery of the swag.
Best of all, your modern digital platform automatically marks each individual who participated in such projects for future reference. Even campaigns on a strict budget with an ordinary Wordpress website can accomplish much of this if the correct Wordpress plug-ins are installed.
Ron Robinson has been a digital consultant/programmer in Los Angeles for twenty five years. He is a former publicly elected GOP official and most recently was national digital director for the Draft Carson campaign where they raised $25 million before convincing their candidate to run.