Despite the growing popularity of social media, email remains a powerful marketing and outreach tool. Email can help your campaign keep supporters interested and active throughout the campaign. Using email effectively can affect both your online and offline success.
In this section, we will examine the email options available, the concept of the sig file and some general tips on campaign email communication.
Let’s begin with the easy stuff.
For small campaigns of short duration, it is usually easier to set up mail forwards, which aliases email from your domain name (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) to another email account, such as ISP email account or other email account.
When using email forwards, make sure you change the reply-to address on your account(s) to match your campaign email account. For example, if you have firstname.lastname@example.org forwarded to the address email@example.com, change the reply-to address of that Yahoo email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email forwards can also be set up within a domain. For example, you could have email@example.com forward to firstname.lastname@example.org so that messages sent to either account ends up going to the contact@ address. This can make things easier by having fewer email accounts to maintain.
Email forwards can be set up through your web host controls.
There are three ways available to access email with most website hosting accounts. They are POP, IMAP or Webmail. Here are the basics about how each works.
POP: POP stands for Post Office Protocol. When email is sent, the post office (server) receives it, and then your mail program (Outlook, Eudora, etc.) goes to the post office and picks up your mail. The mail is then saved on your computer and is deleted from the server. If your mail is critically important, we recommend running regular backups of your mail program.
POP works well if:
- You use one computer to access your email.
- You are the only one who needs access to the email account.
- You sometimes work offline and want access to your email without being connected to the internet.
- You want to keep your mail stored on your local computer so you can easily back it up.
IMAP: IMAP stands for Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP works in an “online” type mode where you connect directly to the server for your mail and all the mail remains on the server, instead of being transferred to your computer. You can create folders on the server to store mail, delete mail, etc. All the work is done on the server. With IMAP you can access that mail account from multiple computers. Although your host should back up all mail messages, consider keeping a local backup.
IMAP works well if:
- You need to access your email regularly from multiple computers.
- You are on a fast, always on type of internet connection (DSL, Cable, or similar).
- You regularly clear out old email and are able to keep the email in your mailbox under the storage size limit for your account. (Never deleting email that is stored in an IMAP account can cause you to hit your account limit and cause email to bounce back to senders until the limit is changed or old mail is deleted).
Webmail: Most web hosts offer a choice of programs to access email through a web browser. Your host may offer Horde, SquirrelMail, Roundcube or other options. With webmail, all the mail stays on the server. You can access it from any computer that has an internet connection and browser. You log in to webmail through your browser and can read and send messages through it.
Webmail works well if:
- You want to be able to access your email online from multiple computers.
- You would rather check your mail in a web browser and not deal with configuring a program on your computer to handle mail via IMAP or POP.
- You regularly clear out old email and are able to keep the email in your box under the limit for your account.
- You are traveling and want to access email while traveling.
Email setup varies from server to server. Check with your web host for any specific email access questions.
Signature files are a great way to promote your campaign. A signature file, commonly known as a sig file, is a short block of information text that you can append to campaign email.
Sig files typically contain the following information:
- Your name.
- Your campaign name.
- A means of contacting your campaign.
- A campaign slogan.
Here are a few email signature examples:
Bob Smith, Campaign Director
John Smith for TinyTown Mayor
Bob Smith, Campaign Director
John Smith for TinyTown Mayor
77 West 20 Street, 6th floor
TinyTown, NY 10001
You can even get fancy, if you want:
JOHN JONES FOR TINYTOWN MAYOR
Putting the ‘Local’ in Local Politics!
Check your email program’s help menu and search for signatures. From there you should find instructions on how to set up a signature for your email account.
Images, such as campaign logos, can also be added to sig files. Keep in mind that many recipients do not appreciate additional files cluttering up their inboxes. We recommend keeping your signature text or HTML-text only.
For online forums, consider using an abbreviated version of your sig file. Some forums do not allow signature files if they are of a political or religious nature. Check the forum rules before posting.
Email communication tips
- Beware the digital divide. Email is a great tool, and it is tempting to just organize with people who are technically savvy. However, you could lose good volunteers that way.
- Don’t use attachments unless absolutely necessary. Many people can’t – or won’t – open attachments for fear of viruses. Upload files to your website or an online storage service and provide a link in the message for downloading.
- Use the blind carbon copy field (also known as BCC) when you send messages to multiple people. That will keep down the header size of the message and protect the privacy of your recipients.
- Don’t use your email account as newsletter service. Don’t send hundreds of messages through your local email account (or BCC dozens of recipients at a time). This can cause your account to be blocked by your web host for spamming. If you plan to send campaign newsletters and updates, use a bulk email marketing vendor, as described in the next section.
- Always assume that your opposition could read any message you send via email. Because email is so easy to forward, sometimes information can find its way to the wrong people. Use a phone if you need discretion.
Consider how you want your campaign email configured and what accounts should be set up (contact@, donate@, volunteer@, etc.). Do you want email forwards to existing email accounts? Do you want to set up POP, IMAP or Webmail accounts? What campaign staff should have accounts? Should there be a limit on access?
- Campaign Email Newsletters
- Paid Email Newsletter Vendors
- A Primer on Autoresponders
- Sending Broadcast Email Messages
- Topic Ideas for Campaign Newsletters
- Soliciting Donations and Volunteers Via Email
- Political Email and Spam
- Tracking Email Success