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Email and Politics: Reputation and Value are Everything

I had the thought the other day that politics and email really are a lot alike. If you mess up in politics or email, the right people (the consumers or voting blocs you want) tune out. Here’s what politicians and email marketers alike need to think about in terms of message strategy:

Provide value for your customers/voters (not yourself–at least obviously)

The biggest problem politicians and email marketers both run into is the issue of being self-serving in their messaging. Email done right is not an ad, it’s a relationship builder. Relationships aren’t one-sided. Neither is politics.

Think of politics and email like a savings account–you pay into the account (building credibility and establishing a brand), then you take out payments when it’s the right time to do so (either getting a vote or getting a sale).

How do you build the relationship? By providing value. You provide value by learning about your customers and giving them the information they need to make an informed decision. Enable them to make the decision as quickly or as slowly as they need. Be persuasive, but don’t sell an empty cart of goods. Consumers will see straight through it.

What this means in email (which politicians use) is connections to:

  • Third-party reviews/Testimonials/Endorsements
  • Whitepapers
  • Demos
  • Microsites with further information
  • Free trials

These are just some of many ideas for getting your message out there without forcing it down people’s throats. That leads me to my next “rule.”

Respect your customers

I know I’m not alone here. You must respect your customers. After all, voting and email subscriptions are opt-in. Respect means proper segmentation of your message. For example, if some of your subscribers want information about jeans and some want information on lingerie, definitely don’t send both sets information about housewares. That’s just not right.

That goes for politicians, too. If your supporters want information about education plan, send them information about that, not your entire platform. There is already a semblance of interest; don’t turn them off.

Respect also means remembering that people have busy lives. That means get to the point and have something important to say; a problem to solve, etc. Kara Trivunovic wrote in her Email Insiders Blog Post:

There is always family. As much as I would love to believe that recipients are sitting with bated breath awaiting the next email from one of my clients, let’s face it–that just ain’t happening. You are competing with email from other marketers in the inbox, as well as newsletters from the local Gymnastics Center, electronic statements from the bank and the occasional request from Mom to help her figure out how to download photos off her newfangled digital camera. Just be sure to keep in mind that you aren’t necessarily competing with your biggest competitor in the inbox. Rather, you may be in competition with Aunt Tilley–so you better have something important to say.

An aside – The White House Email Debate

As many of you email marketers may remember, and as DJ Waldow wrote about on the Email Zoo Blog, the White House clearly forgot about respecting the subscriber. The message sent was pages long when no one has time for that–kind of like the 1100 pages in length that is the current healthcare bill. It was sent to people who clearly didn’t ask for it. And it wasn’t a good vehicle to deliver the value the customer was looking for.

Remember, it’s about relationships.

Relationships are about trust. Trust is built over time–and destroyed in an instant. Think about how quickly Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was destroyed over his scream in New Hampshire in 2004. That’s how quickly email reputations can be destroyed as well.

What is it Ogilvy says?

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”

That’s a good quote to remember.


This post’s main ideas and content originally appeared on on August 24, 2009.

About the Author: Scott Cohen is the Marketing Copywriter for Western Governors University. He also writes on email marketing, fatherhood, sports, and politics on and contributes to the Email Zoo Blog.

Scott Cohen
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1 Comment

  • by Email Critic
    Posted October 16, 2009 10:34 am 0Likes

    Good stuff Scott — thanks for the contribution!

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