How not to impress me, aka the GLA list selection campaign

I’ve now received emails from nearly all the candidates to be on the Lib Dem GLA list and also letters from a good handful. And it’s a rather depressing experience. Not because of the choice of candidates (it’s actually one of the strongest and most diverse set of candidates I’ve ever had to pick between) but because of the method of campaigning.

Ignoring salutations on the literature, nearly all the items have read as if they are a blanket message with the same text being sent to all members across London. One email has genuinely been localised on a borough or local party basis, one letter has a personal handwritten touch from one of the candidates and that’s it.

I’ve deliberately not named the saints or sinners, because when you have such a strong overall pattern, it’s about more than just the individuals. The real point is about how perniciously widespread the habits of blanket literature production are, even when the medium – email or direct mail – is so well made for tailoring the message to the recipient.

It’s a point I made a few months ago about our campaigning in the general election too:

One clear challenge for the future therefore looks to be learning how to maintain the volume whilst increasing the quality – both in terms of better and cleverer use of data to make-up the pool and also in more varied and more carefully targeted letters sent out to the pool.

We have won a string of constituencies assisted by large scale, high quality direct mail campaigns. When the letters are good and varied, people are happy to receive far more than our deliverers and bank balances can put out. Where the letters are formulaic, repetitive or produced in a rush, people’s tolerance drops swiftly.

I’m a great believer in the power of direct mail, because I’ve had the joy of hearing the Returning Officer read out results in many elections won with the help of direct mail. Collectively though having cracked the quantity issue in recent years, we now need to crack the quality one too.

All the candidates have talked about what good campaigners they are. In some cases it’s even true 🙂 But it really highlights how much work needs to be done to raise the standards of segmentation and targeting when so much blanket direct mail and email goes on.

Oh, and before you ask – yes, I did segment the email list for my own interim peers panel campaigning (six segments, each getting their own different emails).

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