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Interesting Email Strategy - The 5 Page Letter

Dick Morris is probably claiming to much in a mid-term analysis of email campaign but there are bits of wisdom worth looking at in his article. I worry a bit about his claim that the email "turned" so many voters considering how well the "Bush Wave" and Rove's 72 hour campaign plan influenced last minute voter behavior. I suggest reading with a [email protected]#$% filter set to high. Morris' logic is a little fuzzy and he is sales man pushing his company but email seems to be different in the context of advocacy.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) used e-mailing to win his closely contested race for reelection. The Huckabee experience should serve as a model for campaigns in the future. - Dick Morris

Sending the Message at the Right Time
One of the things that the campaign was able to do was build a sense of timing because the election is the big day. In advocacy campaigns, we fight long-term campaigns that often lack the climatic and final act of an election day. Many groups tend to bombard users throughout the year without measurement / judgment points for success and failure. Move-on and Howard Dean have been effective this year at creating these points with the email campaigns. (Raise funds by the FEC reporting deadline, beat the Cheney fundraising lunch)

On the Thursday before the Tuesday Election Day, Huckabee contracted with (Morris' firm) to do a statewide e-mailing to a list of 545,000 people in Arkansas. Since Arkansas only has 2 million people, the e-mailing promised to blanket the state, reaching most of the Internet households. - Dick Morris

They held off the on the email until other media and the moment had "softened" the market. I would image that if the email appeared much earlier or on a regular basis it would not have had the same "open rate". Just a few days before the election, the public is saturated with media coverage and paid ads. The deadline and the confusion create an atmosphere that inspires people to look for clarity. Most importantly, the undecided portion of the public are the ones that might read an email looking for additional information.

The Format

The e-mailing featured a very detailed description of Huckabee's record as governor, broken down into categories like "crime," "education" and "family issues" for easy access by voters. The message, attractively presented, was pasted into the body of the e-mail itself to save voters from having to download an attachment.

The letter about Huckabee's record was signed by former Arkansas Rep. John Paul Hammerschmidt (R) to give the message added credibility. The text of the e-mail was much longer - five pages - than would have been possible in either a TV or a radio ad, but gave the voter the option of browsing through to find the categories that most interested him. - Dick Morris

Five Pages! I can't believe they sent a five page email. I assume that they had no tracking but it really opens the door that in a political / advocacy context people may want more information. Spam and sales material for products tends to dictate really short emails. Jacob Neilson (Email Newsletter Usability) has research that promotes Word of the Day as the ideal model and he specifically comments that it is bad if they take too much time or demand too much work. Five pages is unbelievable.

The Result
The great thing about the article and looking at email in a political setting is there is always money for polling. This is one of the few email articles that seems to really point to before and after numbers. The polling analysis is the feature of the article that makes it worth reading and to glean its findings more carefully.

The effect of the e-mailing was electric. Huckabee said afterward that "it might well have made the difference" in the election. Sent out between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday, the mailing sent a jolt through the tracking polling. Huckabee's vote share jumped to 53 percent while Fisher's fell to 37 percent. A few days later, Zogby confirmed Huckabee's 53 percent vote share in his published polls, and on Election Day the governor was reelected by a 53-47 margin. - Dick Morris