A cross-country Twitter feud erupted this week as consultants on the left reacted to news that Google was taking active steps to improve the inboxing of political email after pressure from officeholders and practitioners on the right.
The back-and-forth highlighted two trend lines that may have implications longer term for this sector of the campaign industry. The first is an increasingly public animosity between some practitioners on opposite sides of the aisle. The second is the level of agreement — or lack thereof — around best practices for things like email and text, channels where the tactics of one side could impact the deliverability of sends by the other.
Google’s lawyers are reportedly circulating a proposal to the FEC that would allow it to pilot a program that would “shield candidates’ emails from some spam detection tools.” The news came after Republicans had filed a complaint with the FEC in April against the company following a study released in March that found its Spam Filtering Algorithm was trapping more emails from Republican senders than from Democrats.
Targeted Victory’s John Hall tweeted in celebration of the news June 28: “The Democrats are criticizing Google this morning for addressing the political email inboxing issue. This should not be a partisan issue. We should all want equal treatment. If the Dems are critical of that idea, it means they know they are getting preferential treatment.”
Julia Rosen, a partner at Democratic digital shop Fireside Campaigns, replied: “This is the funniest shit. There is equal treatment. You all just don’t put in the effort around deliverability. That’s not Google’s fault.” In other words, Republicans had successfully worked the referee to get preferential treatment from Google.
She then cited tweets from EMILY’s List CTO Mike Sager questioning the best practices of Hall’s firm’s emails. “Hey John, before you complain that your emails aren’t being delivered, maybe check your own company for stuff like DMARC and the fact that your SPF record is malformed,” Sager tweeted.
In response, Hall and other members of Targeted Victory’s leadership, including CEO Zac Moffatt, started retweeting Tag Strategies’ Jon Adams’ tweets questioning the best practices of Democratic senders.
“This morning I received Sen. Warnock signed conduit/split email that was sent from Sen. Gillibrand’s domain to the 1 unique email that I used only on Sen. Rosen’s website in 2017. 72 senders have launched 24,453 messages into this inbox #bestpractices #domainreputation,” Adams tweeted June 28.
Democratic digital consultant Beth Becker, who counts strategists on both sides of the digital divide as friends, doesn’t necessarily think the ongoing Twitter feud over email practices constituted a trend toward greater antagonism among practitioners.
“I think that the antagonizing between the two sides has spilled out into the open. It’s always been there simmering in the background,” Becker told C&E. “I think it’s just frustration.”
Other practitioners on the right also sent tweets highlighting what they saw as a failure to follow best practices by senders on the left.
Meanwhile, Rosen also took aim at Adams’ tweets about surrogate sending, while other Democratic practitioners maintain the email deliverability issue is more a Republican issue in general: “[C]learly this is a GOP problem,” Kari Chisholm tweeted June 28.
Ultimately, Becker said the public airing of these disagreements about best practices could be beneficial.
“Maybe a little public pressure helps,” she said. “We’re never going to agree with Republican consultants on 99 percent of the issues out there. But best practices aren’t best practices just because a Democrat says it is.”