08th December 2012  – Trung Doan, Viet Labor

Writing an email, the From is you, right? No, sometimes not. That, for me, is one of the more memorable takeaways from the LS Syd2012 conference.

At this hands-on conference, I and maybe 150 others listened to campaigners discussing their labor-rights campaigns around the world, and experts gave us tips on the strategies and tactics of campaigning. We then took part in workshops devising campaigns for current real issues.

For me, one highlight was the 10-minute talk on email campaigns, by Claire O’Rourke of Essential Media Communications.

THE SUBJECT: I had always known to take special care in writing this. The Inbox is a long and monotonous list of names and subject lines. And because my name is not Albert Einstein, the subject line is the only thing I have to attract readers. I usually try to include the recipient’s name to catch their attention, plus the topic – “Hi Dave, re. our meeting next week”. Claire flashed on the screen subject lines such as “The email they don’t want you to read” or “You have two options”, which illustrate the point: Not only the subject lines must catch your attention and invite you to read on, they should also set your frame of mind.

THE FROM doesn’t always have to be you. In an email campaign against some policy, an email carrying the voice of a victim of that policy might sometimes be more effective than the campaign team’s.

THE TO: Our database of recipients has them there because they share certain things in common. Our email needs to be geared towards such things.

THE DAY/TIME: Claire quoted some survey which showed that on certain days of the week, and during certain times of the day, people are more likely to respond to our call to action. That was news to me, but it makes sense. For one thing, sending our campaign email on Friday night ensures that on Monday morning it will be near the bottom of our recipient’s long Inbox.

THE ASK and THE BODY TEXT need to be just long enough, just short enough, and support each other. I think Claire said something about repeating the Ask within the body. That makes sense, because some readers read the top few paragraphs only, some read others, and those who read the whole email will be urged more than once to act. The Ask also needs to make the recipient instantly understand how the action we ask them to do will cause the change we seek – what Claire called “Theory of Action”.

THE SIGN OFF – I don’t remember what Claire said, I was distracted, but I imagine this is like the last paragraph of a novel, the last goodbye between lovers, .. This is our chance to leave a takeaway message, a lasting impression.

You’d probably say that much of this is common sense. That’s true, but how often does common-sense visit your inbox? I guess Claire’s talk reminds us to craft our campaign emails methodically, and reminds me in my daily life to write better emails that get read and acted on.

PS – I wrote & asked Claire to check my accuracy. She kindly reminded me about “Theory of Action”. Her email address is claireorourke@essentialmedia.com.au and Twitter handle is @claireorourke