How good are political party emails?


Although I'm physically far removed, being in another country while my provincial elections take place, I'm far from isolated. Like with any industry, politics is no stranger to marketing and technology. While some campaigns still painfully hit the phone lines, major political parties vie for voter attention via social media, email marketing, and other channels. 

I subscribe to a number of these updates, and want to use this post to explain what can be improved. It shocks me that while companies around the world are striving to improve customer experience, email communication is so behind. I'll review emails from all provincial parties (PCs, Liberals, NDPs, and Greens), giving my thoughts on what is good and what can be improved.  

Unapologetically cynical (PCs) 

I get it. You want my attention and the best way to do that is to anger me — make me frustrated with what our current government is doing, why opposing parties are getting it wrong, and why your party has the answer. I respect that, and if it's well-reasoned and informative, then by all means, keep it coming. Here's an example from the PCs: 


I get that you're angry from the results of a pollster, and I'm sure some Ontarians will be discouraged to see that the NDP is that far ahead. It may even discourage them from voting. However there are ways to point out that the poll is bogus without resorting to what is essentially complaining. 

"They're lying again" — what image does that give me in my head of the potential, future leader of our province? You've got my attention, but not for the right reasons. A good marketing email should capture the attention of the reader, have coherent content, and leave them better off than before. On that second note, let's move onto the copy. 

"They’re calling it a poll, but it’s junk science. They did the survey online, and it was 802 people."

Again, this tone is the last thing that I'd want from any politician, political party, or government. I get the craze around making emails feel like conversations, that I'm on a 1:1 with Doug Ford and he's explaining his frustration over the recent poll, but this type of content just annoys me.  

Naturally, the ending of this email (like all of them) is to donate. Somehow, donations are going to fund campaigns that get them the win. That is the only thing that a reader can do to help. I don't see any call-to-actions that encourage me to share the truth (which is the goal), volunteer my time, or other solutions. All the parties want is your money. How is that supposed to motivate me to vote for the party?! 

To avoid this turning into a hypocritical complaining session, I'll suggest a better email below: 

Subject: The NDP have 43% of the vote? 

Hey Trevor,

There was a misleading poll by a company called Pollara that stated the NDP have 43% of the vote, compared to the Progressive Conservatives at 32%. This is false, and you need to know why. 

The survey only included 802 people and was conducted online. This is far from scientific; it is not nearly big enough to represent Ontario, {{your city}}, {{your riding}}, and most importantly — you. 

Your voice deserves to be heard, and together we can make that happen. CBC's Poll Tracker reports that the PCs are leading the province, but we need your help to guarantee the win. 

There a number of ways you can help — just click below and give even a few minutes to give this province the leadership it needs, a Progressive Conservative one. 

{{donate now}} .  {{volunteer your time}} . {{share this message}}

This is far from a perfect email, but it's easy to follow, has a tone that is relatable to voters, makes them more informed of the issue, and gives them something they can do about it. 

Confusing and Lengthy (Liberals)

Let's take a look at a Liberal Party email. The subject line already is confusing — does the regular Ontarian know what GOTV even means (Get Out The Vote)? I can only imagine that open rates are extremely low amongst political parties, and I don't see how this would help. 


Secondly, the text blob is giving me a headache. I'm going to assume that if you have my email, you probably know what riding I'm in. If that's the case, why not just use Liquid to only send the candidate that matters to me? Do I care who is running in Windsor if I live in Mississauga? 

This might feed into the issue of lack of data in politics, and the danger of public opinion if you collect it, but I don't see how someone will take the effort to find their candidate in this list, and THEN take action on it. 

Lastly, let's take a look at the call-to-action: 


There's a weird switch in the call-to-action that focuses on volunteers. A basic rule in email marketing is that the focus should be narrow, and the call-to-action follows that. To drop a bunch of names and then ask me to support volunteers doesn't directly connect — is the goal of the email to get me to vote, or to donate?

If it's the latter, which by the subject line it looks to be, then why mention the candidates at all? Wouldn't it make more sense to solely focus on the volunteers, maybe highlight a success story of a senior citizen or new immigrant that's been helping out, and then focus on donating to thank them? 

On the right track (NDPs) 


I've taken a look at a few NDP emails, and I have to applaud them overall. It's hard to pick at any distinct pieces that make their emails objectionable. The subject makes sense — I'm either going to choose their government, or the PC government: 

The body connects well to the subject line. They start by outlining what their future could look like — less student debt, lower hydro bills — and then show what the other future could look like — budget cuts and terrible hospital visits. Although the call-to-action is hard to read, given that it's (3) lines of hyperlinked text, it follows a strong narrative and I am enticed to click it.

A little tweaking (Greens) 

In the spirit of being completely non-partisan, I knew I had to include at least one email from the Green Party. There are some improvements that can be made, but overall it's a solid effort: 


While the subject is vague, the content of the email has the right approach. The goal of this email is finally NOT to have me donate, but instead to have me vote. There's a link with details on what type of ID is needed to vote and information on when voting occurs. Sure it would be nicer with an infographic or something sharable, but relatively speaking this is a good email. 


It's common knowledge among companies that spamming your users, even with useful information, is most likely going to result in an unsubscribe, being reported as spam, or a direct reply complaining how annoying the emails are. 

I counted — 5 emails from May 24 to June 1 from one political party. That's almost an email everyday! I understand advance polls were approaching, and you needed to get your message out, but is a flurry of emails the best solution? Imagine if your parents emailed you 5x per week, each time berating you with details, issues, and complains about an event that's coming up. You'd probably be annoyed, but you'd still hear them out, help where you can, and most likely show up to the event, since they're your parents and you care. 

Now imagine that's a political party. The event (voting) is coming up, and they're trying every which way to get your attention. You have the option of ignoring it (unread) or telling them to stop (unsubscribing). Neither of those will result in a positive benefit to the political party, especially not a donation. 


I hope if anyone involved in politics is reading this, they can take this advice to heart and give some serious thought to how they're communicating with potential voters. From what I've heard, some of these email lists contain tens of thousands of people, and I'd be genuinely curious to see what the engagement rates are like. 

If there's two pieces of advice I can give it's to stop focusing on donations and give the voter something to care about, a track to becoming a bigger part of the party, and empower them to want to donate eventually. The second would be to pay a lot more attention to the approach of an email, thinking more about subject lines and how the content should flow.