Be sure to visit Email Delivery Best Practices for an executive level overview of the ability of the Skypunch voting software to send emails to voters and some best practices for managing that aspect of an election. One of those best practices advises that you may wish to send one email using your own email sending tools, then configure the Skypunch system to send follow-up reminders to only those who’ve not voted. By sending email that originates from within your own domain, and then also having Skypunch send emails, with all the measures that are taken to ensure email reaches the inbox, you give yourself a very high probability of email reaching the voter and increasing your voter participation.
The election emails sent by Skypunch are template driven, meaning you can’t modify the content or layout. That’s good because it ensures the content is already exactly what should be included, without including anything that shouldn’t, and the layout is one that permits the email to be quickly brought into focus with the call to action clearly communicated. But if you do send email using your own email sending tools, you’ll of course want the email crafted for maximum effectiveness lest your efforts be all for nothing. What follows are six pointers on how to do that. And while this is intended for announcing elections, some of these best practices can be repurposed for any email meant to trigger a call for action.
- Don’t flood the reader with text. This is probably the single most common error I’ve seen clients commit with election announcements. It really isn’t necessary to say very much to announce the start of an election. In fact the most effective email won’t include much copy. A voter, like any email reader, is ruthlessly fast to click the delete button on anything that can’t be visually digested in about one second. A long-winded explanation about how voting matters; how lucky the voter is to have such a wonderful slate of candidates to choose from; what the experience of voting online will be like or anything not immediately geared towards getting the voter to the ballot is likely to cause interference and get in the way of answering the call to action. The point of the email is to get voters to the ballot, nothing else. Other than the following, any element that appears in the email other than the link to the ballot is a distraction and should be eliminated:
- Greeting. A personalized greeting makes the email more likely to be read than one without.
- Election start and end dates. This helps create a sense of urgency if they know there’s a deadline to be met. This ties in with ensuring that your voting window is not overly long. 10 days or less allows plenty of time to for voters to vote.
- URL to ballot login page. The most basic piece of information of all. Getting the voter to click the link is the whole point of sending the email.
- Election name. So they’ll know what election they’re being asked to vote in.
- Don’t include links to other things like your annual conference. You may be tempted to use this email as an opportunity to promote some special event and include a graphic or a link to a web page devoted to that special event. Don’t do it. As stated above, anything not directly related to the call to action—getting voters to the ballot login page—is a distraction and should be eliminated.
- Don’t overdo it with graphics. A logo can help lend credibility to an email and help a recipient quickly recognize who it came from. It’s ok to include a small logo so long as it’s out of the way and not causing interference with the call to action. Remember too, that spam filters assign a text-to-image ratio score to email, and too much imagery causes it to be seen as spam. Because a well-crafted email announcement will have so little text to begin with, it just doesn’t leave any room for more imagery than maybe a small logo at most.
- Avoid ALL CAPS in the subject line. Aside from being difficult to read and coming off as yelling, all caps are also seen by spam filters as an indication of spam. Use all caps and you damage the likelihood that the email will reach the inbox.
- Use the election name in the subject line. Make it evident what the voter’s being asked to vote in or they will likely be disinclined to vote at all.
- Take it one step at a time. It isn’t necessary to describe in the email announcement that the voter will first be prompted to login, then they will see the ballot and they may click the name of the candidate for biographical information and so on. All those things will be either explained at the point in the process where it’s relevant, or will be self-evident and not require any explanation. The first step is simply getting the voter to the ballot login page. Focus on that and not what comes after, because what comes after that will be handled by the voting software at the point and time when it has meaning to the voter.
This is an easy thing to get right, but I think all too often, the person building an email feels they may be missing something or just can not resist the temptation to show off an ability to write elegant prose. That style of writing has its place, but not in an email announcing an election. Understand and respect the medium and you’ll appreciate that short bursts of text that are understood with only a quick scan of the email will be most effective.