The start of the Eastleigh by-election campaign has shown the perks, and problems, campaign emails.
The battle to replace Chris Huhne as MP for Eastleigh is well under way now, and the parties are trying to rally the troops into action. From what I saw when I was there on Monday, Lib Dem members don’t need much encouragement to get stuck in.
It is good that the Lib Dems clearly see email as a key way of letting activists on know what is going, on l because it is. However, email overkill is a definite potential problem in short campaigns like this one.
Email is an inexpensive efficient way of communicating a message you define to a lot of people. As a result, it is tempting to just send as loads of emails in order to get as much information as possible to people fast.
The problem is that as people very quickly reach a saturation point and they end up, ignoring, or worse, getting irritated with, constant campaign emails.
It is hard enough to get people to read things, so giving them another reason not click should be avoid at all costs. Targeting by building a variety of email leaflets based on different parameters can of course help, as a variety of messaging can be sent to people most likely to respond.
It’s a bit like old fashioned campaign leaflets really. Eye catching, well worded, leaflets clearly still have a place in campaigning, but if you put too many through people’s doors they end up unread in the recycling.
I once spoke to a Lib Dem campaigns officer who proudly told me that they had distributed 27 different leaflets for a council by-election. 27! The Lib Dems lost. This person then said that the reason they thought the party had lost was because…it had delivered too few leaflets!
Emailing and leaflets all have a role in well rounded modern campaigns, but too much of anything just turns people off politics more than they are already.