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A Blueprint for Effective Email Campaigns

Posted by on October 14th, 2009
Posted in Blog, Email Campaigns, Social Media   

At the New Organizing Institute’s Fall Social Media training, Eden James and Julia Rosen of the Courage Campaign (a fantastic organization we encourage you to support) gave a great overview about how to create an effective email campaign. I’ve summarized their key points here for you.

Here’s what you should know:

Three core principles:

  • Build a narrative
    Don’t just share facts and figures. Your emails should work in succession with each other, building a powerful narrative about the people whose lives change because of each gift or action taken by a reader.
  • Empower your members
    Every email action is part of a larger, on-going dialogue with your members that tie them directly to the changes your organization is helping to make in the world.
  • Monitor the metrics
    In order to make change, you have to know what works.

The eight keys to effective email campaigns that open the minds of your members to take action

  1. Communicate a “Theory of Change” (A plausible way that the action you are asking people to take online will lead to change.)
    Your message must be clear, emotional, engaging, empowering and urgent.
  2. Effective subject lines get ’em to open the “envelope”
    A good subject line is provocative, concise, urgent and specific.
  3. Keep it short… but tell a story
    It doesn’t take many words to share a compelling narrative. Hook your reader quickly with action.
  4. Keep it conversational
    You’re creating a dialogue with your reader, not a one-way communication. It’s not about you or your organization; you’re writing a personal letter that engages the reader’s emotions and asks her to take action.
  5. Empower your members
    Never send an email without an action. You can ask readers to sign a petition, watch a video, make a gift or give feedback.
  6. Keep it simple
    Only one action per email. Multiple actions lower your response rate. Instead, use tiered engagement. Ask your reader to take a clear action. Once he’s done that, you can ask him to take another.
  7. Name your action
    Create a campaign name that builds a narrative from email to email. When you name your campaign, you make it easier for your reader to follow the story.
  8. Timing is everything
    When news breaks, take action as soon as possible! Use a positive or negative news hook to compel your audience to take action.

Structure of your email message

  1. First Paragraph: Strong, provocative opening
  2. Second & Third Paragraphs: What’s wrong – outline the problem
  3. Fourth paragraph: Set up the action
  4. Fifth paragraph: The “ask”. This is where you tell them what to do.
  5. Additional link/ask
  6. Legitimizer quote. An outside expert adds credibility to your cause and helps move a reader to action.
  7. Sign-off and signature
  8. P.S. The exception, not the rule. Unlike in a direct mail solicitation, use a P.S. should only be used in special occasions.

Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.

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