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Presidential Email Best Practices: Do You Know Better Than Obama and Romney?

November 1, 2012 By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Loren McDonald, vice president of industry relations at Silverpop, a digital marketing technology provider based in Atlanta, has been analyzing emails from the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney presidential campaigns. He finds that both employ marketing best practices, and both also sometimes step on their own marketing toes. Here is a quiz to see how well you know what political candidates—and commercial marketers—can do to excite supporters, or turn them off.

1. Political candidates should use the first names of people who receive their emails.
A. True
B. False

Answer: A. True. "People want to feel like they're being treated as individuals, not just nameless addresses on a list," McDonald says. As of July, Obama greeted his email recipients by their first name 98 percent of the time, while Romney used their first names just 8.5 percent of the time.

2. Candidates should use email to drive only a limited amount of behaviors.
A. True
B. False

Answer: A. True. "They should include strong calls to action, but [Obama and Romney] may be asking too much of their supporters," McDonald says. Some of the requests the candidates have made in emails—other than to donate or vote—include requests to sign petitions, get freebies, take a survey, register with the campaign website, view a livestream video or sign a birthday card.

3. Candidates can use anyone remotely involved in the campaign in the "From" line in an email.
A. True
B. False

Answer: B. False. Candidates should use only well-known people, and should also be fairly consistent. "A voter who does not recognize those names could just as easily not open the emails or just delete them," McDonald says. "They need to stick with recognized trusted brand names."

As of July, Obama had used 15 different "From Names," and Romney had used 17 different "From Names."

4. What is the most popular tactic in both candidates' emails?
A. Touting the candidate's positions to elicit support
B. Touting a controversial act by the opponent to anger and rally the base
C. Scaring recipients what could happen if the candidate loses
D. Offering contests to meet the candidate, either during campaign stops or at each party convention

Answer: D. People believe it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the President or someone who could be president, and many people will donate for that chance, McDonald says.



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