A few days ago, the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum reported under this headline, Study Finds Missed Messages on Capitol Hill, that six of the top ten vendors for email campaigns targeted at Congress failed to deliver half or more of their e-messages. His report was based on a study done for Capitol Advantage, a leading purveyor of such campaigns. Insiders are buzzin!

I have mixed feelings about all this.

First of all, when ANY organization sponsors a study that, lo and behold, concludes that the sponsoring organization mightily outperforms all of its competitors, you can't help being dubious. In this case, Capitol Advantage is found to get a whopping 97% of its e-campaign messages through to the targeted congressional office. The next closest competitor, VoterVoice, only delivers 81%, while another prominent vendor, GetActive, delivers only 16%. Hmmm. The competitors deserve a hearing.

I asked Bill Pease of GetActive to comment. I know and trust him. [Disclaimer: GetActive provides these services to Environmental Defense, a former employer of mine.] Bill strongly disputes the findings, arguing, among other things, that the study discounted additional options for delivery — for example, faxes and print petitions — that vendors offer and clients use. His bottomline:

We have confirmed that our system delivers messages to the Hill offices that we connect to via webform, and are sharing a detailed audit of our capacity to reach all 538 federal elected officials. To provide additional visibility into the performance of advocacy campaigns, we plan to release, by year end, new, detailed analysis on the outcomes of communications delivered via Congressional web forms. In the environment of increasing barriers to citizen communications, we are committed to providing the highest level of transparency to ensure clients confidence that advocacy communications are getting through.

Still, looking at just emails, there's a rather large gap between the asserted zero percent and 97% delivery rates. A lot of you cause advocates out there are using e-campaigning as a routine tactic, and many of you are using vendors like those cited above, or others like Convio and Kintera (Capitol Advantage competitors who also scored poorly). I suggest you read the report. Maybe it has flaws.

But given the importance of effective e-campaigning (to say nothing of financial stewardship and meeting activists' expectations), it should prompt you to ask some tough questions … whoever your e-campaign agency is! Get the assurances you need and deserve regarding deliverability.

Regardless of how one assesses the study, the Washington Post's trumpeting of it inflicts a major body blow on the already suffering image of grassroots email campaigns. So let me tick off everybody. I think we might be at the point where most of these email letter/petition campaigns are unadulterated cow manure anyway. Here's why …

Continue reading “Study On Emails To Congress Stirs Hornets' Nest”

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