Hillary ALMOST nails the anti-Trump message

Donald Trump had barely finished his call for a ban on Muslim travel to the U.S. when Clinton and Co. fired back. Naturally, because it’s Hillary Clinton, it came through a fundraising email pimping her new “Love trumps hate” bumper sticker over Huma Abedin’s signature. And in equally typical Hillary Clinton fashion, her message was almost off.

It started off promisingly enough:

Last night, when I heard Donald Trump’s hateful comments about banning Muslims like me from entering the United States, I was shocked, offended and angry. But after I saw the flood of responses from this team — and across the country — saying that Trump’s comments were absolutely unacceptable, I was overwhelmed with a different emotion:


That’s actually a pretty cool, positive response. Not only does it make the point that Trump was wrong, it changes the “hero” in the story. When Candidate A condemns Candidate B, A is trying to look like the hero sticking up for the little guy. Such self-aggrandizing rhetoric can ring hollow.

By referencing the public response, Abedin and Team Clinton share the spotlight with the person reading the email – and who doesn’t like getting a little shine, right?

It also marginalizes Trump, disconnecting his inflammatory rhetoric from the rank-and-file voters. For a candidate who referred to political opponents as her enemies, this is an important distinction. But the next paragraph blows up that concept:

Let’s show Donald Trump and his supporters that we won’t be torn apart by his hateful rhetoric.

It’s bad politics to blame Trump “supporters” for the ills of America, no matter which party you’re in. Its logical end is a misstep like Mitt Romney’s “47%” comments – essentially giving voice to the campaign’s plan to divide the electorate and work on getting their own supporters out to the polls. That may reflect a strategic reality, but it doesn’t mean a campaign has to say it publicly.

Email: The Once and Future King

Harvard’s Nieman Foundation had a post today about The Slurve, a daily digest of baseball.  (While I don’t subscribe, I see plenty about it on Twitter and Facebook from intelligent, baseball-oriented friends to know that I probably will at some point.)  Blogger Adrienne LaFrance opines that journalism-by-newsletter may be underrated:

After political reporting and editing stints at The American Conservative and Business Insider, [Michael Brendan Daugherty] decided to quit his job and launch The Slurve, a daily baseball newsletter that began last March on the eve of the 2013 baseball season.

Dougherty saw the opportunity to create a bespoke editorial product for an audience that was inundated with great baseball coverage but had to traverse a huge swath of the web to find it.

Daugherty’s model is subscription, not advertising-based.  He has built an audience and feeds it with great content, and the subscriptions continue.  It’s similar to the model magazines may have used in their heyday, but without the high costs of printing and distribution.

The Slurve is not the first to use such a model.  A few years ago, the National Journal’s Hotiline was required reading when it popped up subscribers’ inboxes right around noon; Ben Domenech’s The Transom treats center-right subscribers to news and analysis each morning.  At some point, LaFrance speculates, specialty email list curators might find seats in traditional media.  She may be right; former Hotline editor Chuck Todd has certainly done so.

In making her point, LaFrance may have hit on something traditional media need more of as they claw their way into the digital age: a direct conduit into the inbox.  Sure, news organizations love to invite viewers to “join the conversation” on Twitter or Facebook.  But doing so is a thin attempt to appear multi-directional: CNN really doesn’t care what you tweeted about Syria, even if it posted your tweet on the air.

News organizations are a one-way conduits of information.  People who know stuff about the world are paid to tell you about it, if you’re interested.  If they are interested in finding your eyeballs online, they would be wise to reach out through your email inbox.

Email marketing done right

The Wife received an email today from Adare Manor, one of the places we stayed during our honeymoon:

The email also included a message:

May you be surrounded by the warmth of home, the love of family & the company of good friends.  Happy Thanksgiving from Adare Manor.

It may seem simple, but it stands out because Adare Manor is in Ireland, and Thanksgiving – at least, the one that’s happening this week, is an American holiday.  They sent us a card for a holiday they don’t even celebrate – and judging by the message, they seem to have a good idea of what the holiday is all about, too.

Too often, online communication – especially through email lists – is treated like a broadcast medium.  It takes little more than some strategic thought and an investment of time to do things like segment out your list and craft your text carefully.  Sometimes, those running email programs lose sight of the fact that each row in their database of addresses is attached to a real person.

Sure, Adare Manor is trying to find ways to remind me that they exist, and encourage me to come back and stay there if I find myself in western Ireland again.  But they’re doing it based on what’s on my mind right now.  Even though there are probably tens of thousands of past American patrons who stayed in Adare and who received that same email, it feels personal.

The I’s have it

The Democrats may be knocking Republicans for being a party without new ideas, but the DNC’s strategy for exciting its base seems to be about a cult of personality.  A message to activists over President Obama’s signature makes that very clear:

I come into this election with clear eyes.

I am proud of all we have achieved together, but I am mindful of all that remains to be done.

I know some out there are frustrated by the pace of our progress. I want you to know I’m frustrated, too.

But with so much riding on the outcome of this election, I need everyone to get in this game.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s six I’s in the first five sentences.  And for a base that, much like George W. Bush’s in 2004, might be frustrated by the administration’s inability to deliver the ideologically pure achievements many had envisioned in the days after the 2008 election.

There’s no public option.  Democrats themselves are divided on the Bush tax cuts, so a tax hike on the wealthy job creators is unlikely.  There is no card check procedure to make it easier to organize unions.  The financial reform bill lost a lot of teeth from where it started, and massive sums of money have been spent on corporate welfare.  So what’s left to excite a liberal base that has to be excited if the Democrats are to maintain full control of Congress?

The answer is apparently a couple of pages from W’s playbook:  1) Make the election about resolve rather than results (recall Bush’s 2004 message, “You may not always agree with me, but you know where I stand”?) and 2) Remind your ardent supporters that the other side is much, much worse.  In 2004 it inspired enough activists to pull a vulnerable incumbent President over the finish line against a poor opposition candidate, so it will likely resonate in some places.  Since the hardcore activist in California is different from the hardcore activist in North Carolina or Virginia, it may not help universally, but at this point Democratic strategy is more about stopping losses than making gains.

The real question, though, is whether the 13 million activists on the Organizing for America list that received this email are still excited enough to volunteer their time for Barack Obama again.

Making online/mobile strategies count

Matt Lewis had me back on his podcast today, and we discuss the balance campaigns must strike between different tech tactics.  Specifically, we chat about Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott’s very deliberate decision to avoid text messaging in favor of email to announce his running mate.  In this case, the Scott campaign decided that emails were more valuable to their campaign strategy than mobile numbers.  (Given Florida’s elderly population, it was probably a wise choice.  Also facto in the power of email’s reach – John Boehner actually sent an email update to his supporter list to draw attention to a tweet.  It sounds redundant but it’s actually the best way to make the tweet gets seen.)

As Matt and I discussed, the rumor from Scott’s consultants is that he is not averse to spending money – so this was an educated decision.

I’m excited to see the implementation of good mobile strategy – and text messaging is going in some exciting directions.  But too often, the people with resources to burn don’t stop to think through their online strategy.  This is especially true with issue or candidate campaigns which use tools like Facebook for messaging, but really don’t know what to do with their 10,000-person follower list after everyone clicks the like button.

To use an old-school campaign example, imagine going door to door for a candidate.  When the voter opens the door, you ask, “Hey, are you going to vote for my guy?”  The voter says, “Yup!” and the conversation ends.  You don’t take down their name, address, or phone number, or even ask if they’d like a lawn sign.  The same is true if think taking action on an issue you care about ends when you send an email to your Member of Congress.  Chances are, that email will be counted and deleted because the staff knows how easy it is for any crazy person to send them an email.  (That’s why advanced follow up is always recommended.)

No matter how advanced your tactic, if it isn’t applied with some measurable and impactful result, it’s a waste of time and resources.