Ten months ago I signed up for the federal Liberal party of Canada’s email list. I was interested in Justin Trudeau and was hoping that he might be a good candidate to supersede Stephen Harper in the next federal election. I didn’t really know much about Trudeau other than that he was Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s son – which gave him the backstory and political connections to possibly succeed in Canadian politics. I had also heard that he was going to be something new in politics – a way to awaken the apathetic young voter population. As most Canadians would know, the Liberal party pretty much self destructed in the 2011 elections. It was obviously time for a change – and maybe Justin, a young, progressive, connected man with one of the most recognized last names in Canadian politics would be the right guy!
My backstory: I’ve played in many bands, written many mailing list e-mails to fans and worked hard on understanding promotion. I read a lot about online promotion and how to treat your fans. I work hard at creating good shareable content and trying to get it out to people I think would appreciate it. What mark would I give Justin Trudeau and the Liberals on their e-mails? C- would be generous. Do the emails talk about Justin’s plans for Canada? Do they talk about things that need to be changed? Do they talk about what is happening in Canadian politics? Do they ask for my opinion? Do they tell me who Justin is? Not really. The vast majority of the emails I get keep repeating one sentiment: “GIVE US MONEY!” Take this recent example from “Justin” himself:
From: Justin Trudeau
Subject: You should give $5, Mike
I’ve been touched by the generosity of donors whose contributions began pouring in yesterday.
Already 1,020 Canadians have chipped in $46,424 to help us get our new TV ads on the air.
When those ads start running Monday Canadians will hear a clear message about our priorities — a message that wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of thousands of Canadians who responded to emails just like this one.
Mike, I want to count you among those Canadians who own a piece of this ad.
With our Wednesday midnight deadline to raise $250,000 just days away, here’s what we have down for you, at this exact email address:
— LPC engagement: active support (Thanks!)
— Current TV Ad campaign donor status: Pending
— Suggested donation: $5
If we’ve made a mistake above, we apologize — it may be that you donated using a different email address, and with a quick call to 1-888-542-3725 (Mon-Sun, 9am to 5pm) we can fix your record.
But if this is accurate, don’t wait. The Conservatives may be planning their next attack already.
You should donate $5 — just $1.25 after your tax credit — and own a piece of this ad:
If I got an email like this from a musician’s mailing list I would a) unsubscribe b) laugh c) use it as an example of how terrible ‘so-and-so’ is at promotion.
Let’s pick it apart, shall we?
I’m sure I enjoy being told what I should do as much as the average person – which is to say I don’t. Nobody likes being ‘should’ on. Especially in the subject of a pseudo-personal generic email from a politician who I still know very little about.
While I’m on the topic of the pseudo-personal content, if you are going to make something personal,make it actually personal AND only do it when you really need the attention. Write a ‘personal’ email about what you want to do to change this country. Get one of your lackeys to ‘personally’ ask for money. Coming from you just tarnishes your image, especially when it’s so pseudo-personal.
3) Asking for money:
Can you imagine if this was an email from a band or an artist saying ‘You need to give me money!’ Email lists are like gold, every musician knows that. On social media your message is just a drop in a huge ocean. Having someone give you their personal email address is not something to take lightly. It gives you the ability to reach them directly, without having to buy facebook promotions or compete with pictures of cats. You have this opportunity to make me a fan, to get me excited about what you are doing, to not only make me a believer but to give me the knowledge and materials so that I can go out and make other people believers. When you play in a band, your mailing list are your ‘super-fans’. You want to get them so excited about what you are doing that they’ll come to you with their wallets open. And if/when they do, hopefully it’ll be for more than $5.
4) Asking for money pt 2:
Ok, maybe the Liberals don’t see their mailing list as ‘gold’ like musicians do. Maybe they just see it as a bank that gives out loans or a foundation that gives out grants. I write a lot of grants. I’ve been a part of loan applications. Nobody would EVER give you money based on the material that these emails provide. I want to see why you are spending the money this way. I want to know you’re getting the best bang for your buck. I want to see the statistics that show that spending $250,000 on TV advertising 2 years in advance of an election is going to make a difference. The email doesn’t have to be 40 pages long, but at least do the work, make a summary and give me the links that back it up if I want to look deeper into it. The question I always have to answer on FACTOR grant submissions says it all: “Describe the initiative or project for which you are applying for funding. In your description, consider where this will occur, when it will occur, how it will be executed, what results are expected and how those results will be collected and measured.”
All this email tells me is that instead of looking for unique new ways of reaching young voters and open-minded Canadians, the Liberal party is going to beg for money – then spend $250,000 on a mediocre TV ad. Musicians would never be that stupid. Give a band $250,000 to promote themselves – the last thing they’d do is spend it on one short running TV campaign. It’s 2013! Try something original and interesting. Get our attention in a unique way. Or, if you are going to resort to the same old fashioned methods of promotion, at least tell me why you think it’s the best way. I don’t own a TV. Most of my friends don’t own TVs. Why should I give you my money so you can put it in the bank accounts rich TV conglomerates?
5) Threats and Hyperbole:
Justin, if you are going to write me a (once again very personal) email like the one from September 9th, 2013 titled ‘Now or never, Mike’ (that once again was asking for $5), then I may have to hold you to it. Oops, I didn’t manage to donate before the ‘now or never’ deadline of September 10th! I guess it’ll be never then, eh? Oh wait, why have I gotten 3 additional emails asking for money since then. Don’t even get me started on the jumbo-hyperbole that the Wednesday night midnight deadline is just days away. This email was sent on Friday morning – saying 6 days is ‘just days away’ is true but only in a way often used in late night TV infomercials.
I was hoping that maybe Trudeau and his team would try to steer Canada away from the over-the-top, lowest common denominator, threat style promotion that our neighbours to the south have been using in their elections. Guess not.
6) Borderline Scam:
Speaking of TV infomercials and their ilk, how great is that middle bit of the email where they try emulate the ‘late payment’ bill notices that come in the mail when you’ve forgotten to pay your hydro or phone bill?! The part that really sends it home is how it says below that if they’ve made a mistake and you actually did already donate that you should phone in to make sure they ‘fix your record‘. Oh no! My TV Ad Campaign Donor Status Record might be tarnished! I’ll never be able to get a mortgage now! This is pretty similar to techniques scam artists use to bilk old ladies out of their pensions. Next you’ll tell me I’ve won a dinner with Justin but I just have to give you my credit card number first to confirm.
7) Threats and Hyperbole pt 2:
Instead of finishing off with a nice message about how much Justin and the Liberal party believe in Canada and what they are going to do to try and make it better, we get a classic US politics style scare tactic/attack warning us that we must hurry – the Conservatives MAY be planning their next attack ad already. Actually Justin (see me being personal there?), I think Harper and the Conservatives have enough to worry about already and I’m afraid to say that I don’t think they are too worried about you.
Consider this advice my $5 donation. I’ll be sorry to miss your near daily (hyperbole) emails asking for spare change but the guy sitting outside the liquor store should fill that void. At least I know he won’t waste it on a TV ad.