Has the election changed email etiquette as we know it?

As little as a year ago, I recommended that churches only send out one mass email once a week plus an additional reminder for any big events. However, with this election cycle people have been receiving 2, 3, or even 4 emails a DAY from campaigns! Has our tolerance for mass emails grown? Presidential campaigns throw millions of dollars into these email campaigns, do they know something we don’t. The answer is yes and no. Here’s why the answer is yes:

1. Smart Filtering: Email apps like gmail have become smarter at re-prioritizing low priority email, thus we are not as interrupted as much because they are farther down the queue.
2. Personalization: The campaigns don’t send generic emails, or at least they don’t appear generic. They are directly from the mouth’s of different personalities and give you personal information about your giving and volunteering habits. In reality, a large PR company has retained the rights to pen an email as “that person” and sophisticated databases are filling in the details about your habits.
3. Multimedia: Text emails are boring, there are great statistics out there about the increased consumption of emails that contain sound, video, or other media.
4. Value: Sometimes value comes simply from useful information, though it can also come from giveaways. For example, share an email on facebook and get a free car magnet in return.
5. Versatile Opt Out Systems: When you go to unsubscribe from an email savvy company, they will send you to a screen that lets you pick the frequency and topics of the emails you receive, giving the user control over the flow of information.

Considering all this, campaigns are still sending way too many emails! I think we can all agree on this. My tolerance stops at about 1 email a day, but only if I like the candidate and the information they send me is valuable. How can churches learn from the tactics of political campaigns?

1. Send more emails: if you are smart and follow best practices I think you can get away with it. I would say 3 or 4 emails a week for a mid-sized church.
2. Have the email come from different people. The church office, the pastor, the director of discipleship or even a lay leader. People will appreciate getting emails from different voices in the church.
3. Use Multimedia: Embed a YouTube video, use current pictures and graphics (not clip art), link to the mp3 of your latest sermon, etc.
4. Make your emails valuable: Figure out what type of information people find the most valuable. Get them to interact with trivia questions, contests, or challenges.
5. Let them choose the information they get. This is hardest to do. You need to keep separate mailing lists for different types of content. A mass email service like MailChimp can help you manage this.


If you are in a church that hasn’t started using mass email, the list above becomes a list of stuff that you are missing out on by limiting yourself to paper mailings. If just 50% of congregants are using email (national use is somewhere between 72 and 92%) than it’s worth it to use email in addition traditional mailings. Contact me if you need help getting started.

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