First: The second Democratic Presidential Primary debates were on.
Then: End-of-month deadlines arrived.
Now: I received a record-smashing 552 emails in one week.
Michael Bennet and Cory Booker were neck-and-neck for “Most Eager to Get My Attention” at 22 emails each, with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris just behind at 21. Tim Ryan had a slow day earlier in the week, and despite his best efforts, could only muster enough to hit 20 emails.
Tuesday and Wednesday boasted the second debates of the primary cycle, and the candidates ramped up their messaging in response. Combined with their needs to get big numbers in for their end-of-month fundraising, and everyone was filling my inbox in the middle of the week.
Nearly every campaign that set a goal this week were interested in the number of donations more than the value of those donations. Even candidates who had already hit the 130,000 donations goal were interested in driving more eyeballs to their campaign.
It’s possible that by setting a donor goal instead of a money goal, campaigns can actually get more engagement due to less pressure. I’ve heard a lot of people apologize that they could only give $1. By making their goals be people-based, it allows people to feel like they are still providing value to their candidate even with only $1.
Regardless of the intent, money was definitely on the minds of all of these campaigns.
After the debates, fundraising was the most-discussed topic.
As a reminder, I don’t count every ask for money as a fundraising topic. The email has to specifically be about trying to raise money. Fuel a fund or meeting a goal is fundraising. “If you like what you hear, chip in!” isn’t. (It is, but that isn’t the topic of discussion.)
Not everyone was focused on the debates or fundraising, however. Joe Sestak tried something new. He showed off his campaign’s design skills (warning: large image):
There is a LOT to unpack here, but the most egregious error is that this is all images with no descriptive text.
One thing you can do with an image is set the description to be a description. What this does, among other things, is allow screen readers to describe the image to someone who is vision-impaired. Other campaigns have done this, and it shows when you copy an image and paste it into a word editor. “Tim Ryan Standing In Front of Flag,” it might say, or maybe the description uses the actual words in the image so it can be read. This email had none of that. If I relied on a screen reader to understand my emails, this email was as good as a blank message. In addition, no description means that none of the keywords show up if I search. If searched for “Joe Sestak Iran,” this email would not come up, even though he mentions talking about his policies on Iran in it.
It was also incredibly long. When it first landed in my inbox, I thought “Oh, that’s kind of cute.”
And then it didn’t end.
My eyes glazed over. I kept scrolling. Sestak isn’t a good storyteller in the shortest of emails, and this one wasn’t short at all. By the end, I felt the art style was actually detracting from the content and I was ready to be done with it.
And then on Saturday he emailed Volume 2 with the exact same design.
Elizabeth Warren uses image descriptions to her advantage. When she sends image-only emails, her descriptions say what is in the image. Mostly.
If I copy and paste that picture directly out of the email, the text says: “To hit our July goal we need 150 more donors from your area today” It’s… close. Not quite what the picture says, but close enough for someone with a screen reader to get the gist. Except that the number is different. This goes to further prove that Warren, at least, isn’t using any concrete way of determining those numbers. She’s just trying to get me to feel like one of the team.
Every campaign this week asked for money in one form or another, but one format really stuck out at me. First, Then, Now. Amy Klobuchar had been using this method of getting her points across for a while, but it felt like this week, many more campaigns were jumping on the bandwagon.
FIRST: Political pundits and talking heads said Joe Biden’s campaign was over. He was sinking in the polls!
THEN: Several new polls showed Joe Biden was the only candidate that could beat Donald Trump.
AND NOW: Donations are pouring in! We’re getting so close to hitting Wednesday’s fundraising goal.Biden HQ
FIRST: The DNC blocked Steve Bullock from the first debate — because he had a job to do.
BUT THEN: Steve secured his spot on the second debate stage. YES!
NOW: We’re just 2 days out from the debate…and we’re pushing to get 5,000 more donations to show there’s strong grassroots momentum behind Steve Bullock.Team Bullock
First, earlier this week we told you that we were pretty far behind on our fundraising goal.
Then we had two of our best fundraising days of the quarter (today and yesterday) around Beto’s big debate.
Now we’re closing in on our goal. One more big push might get us there.Rob Flaherty, Digital Director, Beto for America
First, Amy earned “the most impressive list of endorsements by any presidential candidate so far” in New Hampshire.
Then, she crossed the polling threshold to participate in the DNC’s fall debates!
Next, she took the stage at the second Democratic debate in Detroit and made her case for honest leadership and an optimistic economic agenda for America.Klobuchar HQ
FIRST: Kirsten crushed the debate.
Then: We saw a HUGE surge of momentum!
Donations from all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico during the debate. Single best fundraising day of July. $16.20 average gift. 80% of donors are new.
Now: We need you to make sure Kirsten is on the next debate stage.Gillibrand 2020
First: President Trump said nine times that he wanted universal background checks.
Then: The next day, President Trump met with the NRA — and he folded.
Now: Amy used the Democratic presidential debate to take the fight right to President Trump and CALLED HIM OUT for his lack of leadership on gun safety.Team Amy
Like with all rhetorical devices, this listing is best used sparsely. Overuse makes it grow old and stale. This is the main problem with Julian Castro’s emails: his constant use of “when they said someone like me couldn’t run for President… someone who came from the wrong side of town, like I did… someone who was raised by a single mother like I was… someone who was descended from immigrants like I was… I proved them wrong!” is so overdone that I roll my eyes every time I see it. Klobuchar was doing well with her use, pulling it out frequently enough that I can read it and think “this is a Klobuchar” email, but not so frequently that I was groaning.
Unfortunately for Klobuchar, when it starts cropping up everywhere, it starts becoming a groaner. That’s why when Steve Bullock “borrowed” Castro’s format for sharing his own tough childhood, and when Tim Ryan tried it once, I was flat out done even before they had used it the first time. It’s why I hate emails that start with “In a minute, I’m going to ask you for a donation, but first let me explain.”
It starts sounding like a form letter, and none of us appreciate getting a form letter.
Cory Booker’s team tried to put a little twist on an old political email trope:
I’m sure you get lots of emails from campaigns or organizations passing along updates from their candidates and hoping you’ll be inspired to help them reach a goal. I’ll let you in on a little secret — sometimes those scenarios aren’t exactly real.
Jenna Lowenstein is right: I do get a lot of emails passing along updates from their candidates. And I do get many emails that claim to be written directly by the candidate. The really good ones, I can recognize if it’s going to be signed by the candidate based on the writing style of the email. Sometimes, I can even catch when an email signed by a candidate almost certainly wasn’t written by a candidate (and I’m fairly certain Tim Ryan has only ever sent me one actual email himself, despite how many have his signature.
However, Lowenstein said “These emails aren’t usually true, but this one is, I promise!” She then included a screenshot of an iMessage conversation between herself and Booker.
It was definitely a ballsy move. Unfortunately for Lowenstein, “believe me,” “trust me,” and “I swear” tend to be red flags pointing out a lie in today’s political climate.
Finally, a lot of candidates were saying thank you after the debates and the end of the month. Thank you for my support, thank you for my encouragement, just thank you in general. My favorite came from Amy Klobuchar, not because of the words used, but because this picture was just too cute.