A couple of items this week serve as good reminders that there are no shortcuts to online advocacy success.
The first comes in the form of a Los Angeles Times story about a YouTube video featuring Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. It turns out that the Trutanich campaign paid a firm to promote the video and generate views. The effort seemed to be successful, with more than 725,000 views accumulated. However, the article alleges that many of the views may have been fraudulently obtained.
It's one thing to promote a YouTube video through email, video, or web advertising. But when it crosses the line into fake clicks, that's a problem.
The second piece comes from Colin Delany's e.politics blog where he notes a surge in reports from friends indicating that they seem to have been added to Rick Santorum's email list. A few problems: they didn't sign up for it and they're not even conservative Republicans.
In my previous role as a consultant, I was pitched by numerous firms promising to have legitimate rentable email lists to help jumpstart my advocacy campaigns. I'll admit that I even tried them a couple of times after getting them to verify in writing that these were not harvested lists but had permission to send. Even with that threshold, the lists weren't very useful, so I stopped using them.
Bottom line: take Colin's advice and do list rentals with specific publishers who make clear where the email is coming from rather than doing blind list rentals. The cost will be higher and the gross number of sends not as impressive, but the results will be better. Oh, and you won't likely end up being called out on someone's blog for being wildly off the mark with your targeting.
In a reminder that words matter, Colin Delany points to a ProPublica examination of the subtle differences in individual emails from a recent Obama campaign email blast. Technology empowers public affairs professionals to tailor messages very specifically both online and in more traditional media like postcards and other direct mail. In the world of email communications, near real-time feedback allows highly effective A/B testing to deliver better results in advocacy campaigns, fundraising, and other outreach efforts.
Colin also shares some recent personal experience with A/B testing for one of his clients, with some great insight on the amount of the "ask" in a fundraising email: