An email from Simon Hughes: the good and the bad

With my oft-repeated refrain that the party needs to treat members and supporters far more as active participants in the battle for Liberal Democrat policies, rather than as passive spectators, it is no surprise that I think Simon Hughes’s email yesterday was a good move. It called on people to sign the grassroots generated Parliamentary e-petition calling for the moves to a £10,000 income tax allowance to be speeded up.

That’s the good side. The bad side? The email’s content itself.

It’s one of the basics of email campaigning that if you want people take an action as a result of an email, the whole message needs to be built around pointing people at that one action. Text that goes off on different points and links that take you to different sites all undermine the aim of getting people to take that one action.

On that score the email was pretty poor. Not only were there links in the body of the message taking you to four different destinations, only one of which gave the option to sign the petition, but the action link was the third of the four.

It’s no surprise that as a result if you look at the number of additional sign-ups to the e-petition overnight, the email has generated a three figure boost rather than a four figure boost to the petition, and still left it a long way short of a good total.

Here’s the text of the body of the email (which then went on to have another six links in its footer, less of an issue but still leaving the message with ten links only one of which goes to the action page):

Dear Mark,

In tough times, I believe you should keep more of the money that you earn. That’s why the Liberal Democrats want to see the tax-free threshold raised to £10,000 – giving you a tax cut when you need it most.

Liberal Democrat plans would save working people £700 a year –that’s an extra £60 in your wages every month. And more than 3.5million older and low-paid people will be freed from paying any income tax altogether.

This is a plan we put on the front page of our General Election manifesto and it went into the Coalition Agreement.

And we have already started.

In April last year, millions of ordinary working people were given a £200 annual tax cut and since last April 800,000 low paid people no longer pay any income tax at all.

But I believe our tax cuts need to happen faster and go further.

Ahead of the Budget next month, Nick Clegg and Liberal Democrats in the government will be pushing to speed up our tax plans.

Please join this campaign and sign the petition, set up by a grassroots Liberal Democrat member, which is on the Number 10 website here.

Liberal Democrats want tax cuts for working people, not the rich.

Please help us to make that happen.

Best wishes,

Simon Hughes MP
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

PS At Liberal Democrat Conference next month, we will be debating how to make the tax system fairer. Register here.

14 responses to “An email from Simon Hughes: the good and the bad”

  1. I read through the whole email before clicking on any links. The first link I clicked on was the e-petition because I first thought they had set up a separate one from mine. Then I went back to look at the other links.

    I wonder how other people read through the email and which link they clicked first.

    • Tracy Connell One of the great things about email is that it generates lots of data which lets questions like yours be put to the test of evidence. What it shows (for ecampainging more generally and for Lib Dems too) is that you are unusual. Unusual in a good way! But it means emails that want to trigger action need to appeal to a different sort of behaviour.
      If you work backwards from the boost to the number of petition signatures to the number of people the email roughly went to, the click through rate for such a campaign email looks to have been pretty low.

    • Mark Pack I'd have no idea how many people the email was send to. Without it I would still be on less than 1,000 signatures.

      But I take your point. I understand what you mean. Tell Simon to try better next time? LOL

      I'm quite pleased that he sent it out at all to be honest. I totally wasn't expecting it. I'd been having a bad day and when I saw that it just cheered me up no end. Took me by surprise.

      I have to thank you too for promoting my link, even before Simon did. I hope our ministers have signed it! LOL

    • Mark Pack From what Simon said in Derby I think he is keen to help grassroots activists get heard.

      It certainly is a feat for me from grassroots. Just shows people do take notice sometimes 😉 Nice to know.

  2. I honestly think you are being a bit hard on whoever wrote this e-mail. This is a million miles from that awful e-mail last May when he wrote about it being a good week to be a Lib Dem in the wake of the Scottish elections. I think the links bolster the argument in the e-mail, and as Tracy says, I never ever click on links until I've read the whole thing. Also I'd give Brownie points for the link to the Conference registration site – an important part of any communication from the party that goes out at this time of year.

    • Caron Lindsay You're right that there are some good points about the email, hence the "good" part of the title 🙂 However, the other points I've raised are not advanced, abstruse email campaigning knowledge by any means.

      It's more the equivalent of knowing you should put photos in leaflets because people look at them, and that's a sort of level of knowledge we should be expecting people to have or to acquire very quickly.

    • Graham Neale As I've said in response to Tracy, if you work backwards from the boost to the number of petition signatures to the number of people the email roughly went to, the click through rate for such a campaign email looks to have been pretty low.
      That is the real test for an email like this: did it get a good number of petition sign-ups? The evidence both from its design and from what can be judged from the outcome is that it didn't.

  3. I was on holiday last week and missed this article. Not having a dig Mark but your last email had 71 links. 21 of them before any information was given. The first 6 were asking people to share before they had read it. I will wait for your next newsletter with anticipation.

  4. All good points, Mark: is there a need for a bit more central co-ordination when it comes to spreading party messages from our leaders? And an internal dos and don'ts guide for Agents, candidates, councillors etc?

    • Our email campaign guide certainly needs an update. Having just finished editing another book for ALDC and got a publisher's contract now to meet, I am having to resist thinking I should just write a new one myself!

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