Just last week, I wrote about the 1,400+ word email that the campaign of Larry Hogan previously sent out:
This email arrived with the all-caps subject line of “WE CAN WIN!”
There are also several other uses of all-caps sentences and phrases throughout the message. None of that is ideal for avoiding recipients’ spam filters. Of course, it’s probably not a good idea to send an email that’s over 1400 words long if you expect any of the recipients to actually read it. If they want the email to be productive in fundraising, it’s good that they include donation links throughout the message. However, putting the links at seemingly random places between paragraphs as the words “CLICK HERE TO DONATE TODAY!” is probably not the best way to do it. Working the ask so it flows into the copy of the message and then hyperlinking those phrases would probably have more positive results than how this Hogan email did it.
The subject line this time wasn’t in all-caps and was, “TIME isn’t the ONLY thing we need to CHANGE TODAY!”
The subject line, with spaces, is 50 characters long. Mailchimp’s recommendations for subject lines are 50 characters or less (and they are the vendor being used by the Hogan campaign to distribute messages.) While this subject line is better than one with all-caps I really don’t think it’s a good one. The subject line is a vitally important and often ill-considered part of the message. Experimenting with subject lines, whether through A-B testing on the same message or through experimentation on subject lines of subsequent messages, is a must to help improve open rates of messages.
This message is the second one from a Maryland Republican in recent days to try to take advantage of Daylight Saving Time as hook.
The thing that instantly jumps out at you is the hideous yellow body background. That dooms the template for the message from the start. Some of the comments I heard about the look of the message included the one word comments of “Geocities” or “Angelfire.” I also heard one person say, “It’s like 1988.” I also had one person ask if the message was really from the Hogan campaign (it is.)
This particular email uses a lot of blue text for emphasis, some of it with underlined words as well. None of the blue text is actually a hyperlink, despite that being what many people will assume until they try to click on it.
There is also one use of black text underlined which is a bit inconsistent and could also be mistaken for a link.
Then we come back to the issue of donation links. As I noted, the previous Hogan email had donation links seemingly at random places between paragraphs as the words “CLICK HERE TO DONATE TODAY!” rather than making the links in places that made sense inside the text itself. This weeks email still makes the mistake of putting those words in all caps and then makes it uglier with the white text and red background on the words. This appears to be a crude attempt at making a donate button without actually making a graphic. It’s still not the right way to do a solicitation inside the body of a message. A donate button (an actual graphic) can be used to supplement the donation links in the body, but it should only go on a sidebar or at the top or bottom of a message.
The last message had a scan of Hogan’s signature built into the closing. Apparently the white background of that graphic caused them not to use it this week with the mustard yellow background and instead use typed text. Unfortunately, the font for that text was Comic Sans, which is often the butt of jokes when it gets used on any professional documents (even David Brinkley used Segoe Print instead.) Additionally, a postscript is a great way to ask for money again in any message. However, when you include a postscript without a donation link included on the ask (yes it should be organic and not the CLICK TO DONATE TODAY! links the Hogan campaign is mistakenly in love with), you are missing an opportunity to make money. The postscript is also significantly smaller in type size than the body of the message, which could cause it to be overlooked more easily.
Here’s the signature and postscript along with examples of some of the other problems I already discussed:
At the bottom of the message there are two links – to Twitter and Facebook – that have a red background like the donation links from the message. These links aren’t white however, and look like they do below if the recipient has visited either link before. A graphic would be much better and wouldn’t take much effort to make. Additionally, the campaign already has some small social media graphic buttons on their website that would have worked for this as well.
Now that I looked at all the problems with the technical execution of this email, let’s look at the bigger picture.
I talked to one fundraising professional who agreed with my above assessment of the technical aspects of the message. Additionally, this fundraising expert discussed the content of the message as well:
The second half reads like a poorly written cover letter. And the colors and signature are horrible. Tough to read – in so many ways.
He goes on to say that the whole message is a “disaster.”
Another digital expert I talked to about this message noted how tedious the writing style is. He also noted that this message could have been sent by anyone running had you just switched out a few biographical details. It does nothing to distinguish Hogan from anyone else.
Throw in all of the technical screw-ups along with the big picture problems, it would seem obvious to anyone that whoever is responsible for the Hogan campaign’s fundraising email is grossly incompetent.
Maybe somebody at the Hogan campaign can get a copy of E-Mail Marketing for Dummies or use Google to find all of the other good resources for best practices for online fundraising and email marketing. Some help with a graphic design program could be helpful too. Maybe finding another person to do the emails that actually knows what they’re doing might help too.
This may seem inside baseball and a bit in the weeds for some readers, but it’s an important area for Republicans to get right if they want to catch up to Democrats.
As I’ve noted before, I have critiqued campaign and political emails on more than one occasion before and had any other candidate sent something this blatantly bad I would have ve done the same for them. Over the weekend, I critiqued a poorly executed David Brinkley email. Additionally, I pointed out the problems in another Hogan email last week.
I previously wrote about ethical issues with Wade Kach emails. I did the same for an email sent by Kathy Szeliga and got a very nice response and reaction from her about it. I also criticized a Maryland GOP email sent out in April. Additionally, I was critical of one of the worst political emails I’ve ever seen sent by the Lollar campaign (that was in addition to writing about all the twists and turns while the Lollar campaign website was down for 11 days.) More relevant to this current discussion are criticisms I wrote about the Maryland GOP sending out a 1300-word email on the 4th of July and the campaign of Ken Cuccinelli sending out an 1100 word email. This is a subject I have written about before based on my experiences being involved in the process of creating and sending political emails all the way up to the point of clicking on the big green send button in the email system.
UPDATE: Michael Swartz notes that I “really despise” this Hogan email. That’s a mischaracterization. I discuss this email in the context of best practices as they relate to sending campaign emails including fundraising. This relates to my professional expertise rather than disliking or despising it.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.