Getting Your Email On

Emily Thorson of EchoDitto offers some great pointers on why and how to write compelling emails, which are they key to driving online action.

Real-life fact: email drives traffic and participations.


  1. Stop stressing about your website. Yes, it should have regularly updated content and look halfway professional. But it shouldn’t drive your strategy, it should be driven by your strategy.
  2. Figure out what organizations have big lists and befriend them. In DC, this might mean MoveOn or Democracy for America. If you’re running a local organization, it might be your local Planned Parenthood or League of Conservation Voter chapter.
  3. Always be growing. Constantly ask yourself “How can I make this into a list-growth activity?” Tell your list to tell a friend. Do campaigns that encourage signups. Partner with other organizations.
  4. Write decent emails. Just follow a simple principle: write emails as if you’re talking to a friend. There are a couple of points that go along with this.
    • Your emails should be from human beings, not organizations. Put the name of a person in the subject line. The candidate, the campaign manager, whoever.
    • I try to do a “term paper check” a few hours after writing my first draft, where I go through and figure out which sentences sound like they belong in a political science paper, and delete them.
    • No email newsletters! People have very, very short attention spans. Figure out the action you want the email to focus on, and write the email around that link. Paragraph, link, paragraph, link, paragraph, link, signature. PS: link. Even though you also want to include a link to the photo gallery, and the front page, and the campaign you did last week, and the event calendar…don’t do it! Just pick one. Just pick ONE.
    • Write out the link. This sounds petty, but it makes such a huge difference that I would be remiss in not mentioning it. Do not make “click here” into a link. do not make the name of your campaign into a link. Write the whole thing out, with the http://www. for each one. People like to know where they’re going when they click.

One thought on “Getting Your Email On”

  1. I think these points are right on, particularly that focused emails are the best way to reach people online and that web sites aren’t as important as email – thanks for the heads up.

    One important point that I’d add is that you should think of each email as part of a series of emails that tell a story, so you always want forward momentum and to build on the last email at the same time you’re introducing new people to what you’re doing. It’s a mistake to treat each email as a seperate thing because you lose out on the work you’ve already done and you bore people who have been involved for a while if you’re always starting from square one.

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