Friday, September 19, 2014

So I got an email from The White House...

I don't know if it's just me, but it would appear that The White House fired up their email marketing machine on Monday, Sept. 8.  I'll take a look at the stream I've gotten so far and make some observations.

In some ways, The White House is a unique brand. While it's well known in its own right, it's actually the temporal brand extension of a movement - our elected President, his leadership of our country, his global influence and his particular (political) objectives. Any media, whether it's a blog, press release, Facebook post, radio address, Tweet, etc., must be cognizant that its audience may be anyone in the world, even those who are opposed to the brand and its messsaging for any number of reasons.

Still, there are still plenty of take-aways here that can apply to any email marketing campaign.

Since Sept. 8, I've received at least seven emails from five different senders. Between the sender's name, the preheader or the odd predilection with the colon (what is that?), I can tell that these are all from the same organization when they arrive. (Is the colon on purpose? A quirk to signify that the subject is the start of the message? Or something else? Feel free to theorize in the comments. It feels unfinished but maybe that's just me.)

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It is rare that all of your emails will be lined up like this without other emails interspersed, but it's still a good exercise in examining your program for consistency.

Look at your campaigns and ask:

  • From: Is it clear to readers who the email is from? 
  • Subject Line: Does it pique the subscriber's interest. If there is no pre-header/preview text, is it enough on its own to give them a reason to open the email?
  • Pre-header/Preview Text: This is a great way to (a) expand on the subject, (b) give them additional information or (c) identify the ultimate call-to-action.

So here's one of the emails:

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This is clearly an informational email. The subject line clearly notes "Five things you need to know about ISIL:" (I liked that it acknowledged the other names ISIS and the Islamic State, the first ISIL mail from the White House that I received didn't and it stuck out to me as odd that they were choosing a term different from what I heard more often in the media.) 

It has a video for those who want to watch a video and text for those who want to read - all nicely punctuated by headers for those who want to skim. The White House is rendered stylistically as a graphic at the top, but without the logo you typically see.

The links near the top take you to a blog post which contains the same information as well as some additional information. Even though the goal here is informational, it was a miss not to have any links near the bottom. You never want to deliver someone to a dead-end.  It get to the bottom and my choices are "unsubscribe" or "privacy policy" or to send an email or call The White House. In most cases, this would be an appropriate place for a "recapture bar" - a few selected navigational items from your website to drive traffic to your website. At minimum, I think they should have had one more link to the website here.

No social media elements in this particular email and but that's understandable considering the topic.

Rendered well and was quite readable on my mobile device, but required 14 thumb-scrolls to get through all the content.

And then lastly, an argument for the use of Google+:


This appeared in the right nav of Gmail next to the email gives them additional branding (including the logo) and another opportunity to promote something else to readers.  The promotion here is a video which means it's going to go to YouTube and therefore also be highly accessible. (Many have skipped Google+, but it may be worth testing response rates to Google+ content at the time of an email send.)