Obama and Romney Break Email’s Golden Rules
Amid all the hoopla around politicians using #social media platforms to engage voters, the Obama and Romney campaigns are still employing a stalwart communication tool: #email. The problem, however, is that both campaigns constantly break the golden rules of email, to the frustration of many.
What’s This About?
First, there are the subject lines, which are usually misleading or do little to inform recipients what the message is actually about in the hopes of getting them to open the email — a practice known in the digital journalism world as “clickbait.”
Here are some recent subject lines from team Obama: “Go ahead, keep waiting.” “Here’s a twist.” “Midnight, your time.” “Dinner?” And from Romney: “Bring a guest.” “Day One.” “Ride along.”
That all makes you wonder if they’re all somehow related: Maybe I’m waiting for midnight on day one, and the twist is that I can bring a guest to ride along to dinner? At least the Romney emails give a little bit of a clue to what’s below the fold.
Too. Many. Emails.
The frequency is also an issue. The Obama and Romney campaigns send out at least one email a day, and occasionally many more (especially when fundraising deadlines loom).
That would be understandable if each email contained some critical update, but most don’t. In fact, the content of both sides’s emails has become strikingly similar. Small-dollar donation pleas are common from both teams, as they’ve become a popular metric for campaigns that want to prove they’re not influenced by “big money.” Those donations are often tied to contests with prizes ranging from a new bumper sticker to a chance to hang out with President Obama at George Clooney’s house, or with #Mitt Romney at a Red Sox game.
Plenty of others have lambasted Obama and Romney for their email donation pitches. Comedian Jon Stewart dedicated a segment to Obama’s emails last April, joking that “there are exiled Nigerian princes getting Obama campaign emails going, ‘ease up on the money thing, fella.”
When their emails do contain an actual important piece of news, such as fundraising numbers, they can be lost in a sea of other emails. Political campaigns are becoming the emailers who cried wolf.
Is it working?
Why would the campaigns keep up with these annoying emails? It turns out they may be working.
Following the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, both campaigns sent blast emails to supporters asking for donations. The Romney campaign reported a staggering $4.4 million in from 43,000 online donors in less than 24 hours — an average donation of $100. The Obama campaign didn’t release numbers, but a spokesman said that their team did better (The Obama campaign reported an average donation size of about $50 throughout June.)
Those results are likely an outlier — the decision was a rare singular moment that was likely to spark an influx of donations regardless of an email pitch, and post-decision fundraising pitches also came via Facebook, Twitter and other digital means. However, the emails from both campaigns keep filling inboxes across the country — a sign they must be worth the effort during “normal” times, too.
That means, for Obama and Romney supporters, four more months of emails with misleading subject lines and $3 donation pitches. Meanwhile, dinner?
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