Five reasons why unions should care about email

December 13, 2010

Although email has been around for decades, it is still the cutting edge of campaigning and communication. Even in the age of social media, Twitter, Facebook, and iphone apps, email is by far the most used way that people use to send information – more than 94% of adults send or receive emails regularly, higher than everything else. Almost everyone who uses the Internet uses email.

Emails, unlike websites or social media, allow unions to send our message right into their inbox – and because of this it can feel more important and personal. We’re going right into their home, their study, their living room or study to have a conversation. Politicians and businesses have been using email for years – but don’t worry, email is more than ebay catalogues or media releases.

Email campaigning is amongst the safest, cheapest form of mass public relations and communication out there. It can be deeply personal, highly engaging, and spur the recipient into doing amazing things for your union campaign.

For all of these reasons, unions should treat email more seriously than just send out an all-member email using Outlook, Lotus Notes or Gmail. Unfortunately, too often I see unions cut and paste their email list into the BCC field of Microsoft Outlook, without a thought about how many people actually read the email. Worse still, I’ve seen union leaders assume that most, if not all, recipients of their email actually open the email and read it. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.

So, why should unions care about email?

1. Email builds relationships

Emails that you send may be broadcast, but the recipient can email back. This dialog means that you can engage with your members and subscribers in a personal way. While engagement and relationship building is at the core of social media, email has done it for years. Well-written emails can convey enormous information about your union and your campaign – even if they don’t write back.

In my experience, email lets union members and supporters reply to broadcasts – and when you start talking back, you’re more deeply engaging with them than any other form of communication other than a face-to-face conversation.

If you’re doing email properly, with a permission based list, then in most cases, you’re in a good starting position as well – your email recipients want to hear what you’ve got to say.

2. Email is cheap

Email itself is free to send, but if you want to do email properly, you should use an email marketing service, like the excellent Mailchimp (or the service that I offer). While there are costs to sending good quality emails Рstaff time, design Рit is far less expensive than direct mail.

3. Email lets you micro-target and segment

If you are using a good email campaign service, you should be able to vary the content of your email based on what you know about them. Where they live, their workplace, their age and gender, or whatever other information. The more personal you make your email content, the higher the likelihood that the recipient will open your email and take action.

4. Email give you instant feedback

Email statistics and analytics gives you detailed feedback on how well your email campaigns are faring. How many people are opening your email? How many forward it to a friend or colleague? How many unsubscribe? How many click on the link? Good email services should integrate with Google Analytics, so you can follow them from the email you send to your union’s campaign website.

5. Email is quick

Unlike printed flyers, newsletters or posters, emails can allow for rapid response. You could get an email campaign up and running, from conception, writing, design and sending in just a few hours. You can also decide to send the email at optimal times – good email services let you schedule when the email gets sent.

[box type=”info”]Note:¬†These benefits are not necessarily exclusive to email – other social media tools offer some of these features as well.[/box]


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