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It seems that the UK's political parties have a lot to learn about email marketing, with all making some basic errors in their campaigns. 

As demonstrated by Barack Obama, email can be a powerful tool in political campaigning; allowing parties to build up a profile of their subscribers, and to bypass the media and open a direct channel of communication with potential voters. 

However, according to my own research so far, the email marketing strategies of the three main UK parties could be improved...

Email sign ups 

I signed up for emails from the Labour Party, Conservatives and Lib Dems. All three have sign up options on their homepages, but some are clearer than others.

Labour places the email sign up link in a prominent position, on the right of the homepage, just under the main navigation bar, with a clear call to action: 


The Liberal Democrats come second for me; the sign up option is in a less prominent position on the page, but is still clearly visible:

The Conservative Party needs to make its sign up option clearer, and place it more prominently on the page. Depending on the screen resolution, size of browser window etc, the sign up link may well be below the fold. 

Whether below the fold or not though, it doesn't catch the eye as much as the others: 

Email opt-in forms

As for the sign-up forms, these were good enough, if a little basic, asking for name and address, though the Tories and Lib Dems wanted people's mobile numbers, though this was not mandatory. 


Liberal Democrats: 


It could be argued that all three have missed an opportunity here to gather more data that could be used to target emails more effectively, such as age, income bracket, or who they voted for at the last election. 

There is a risk of deterring people by making email forms too lengthy, but such fields could be optional. 

Welcome emails

Of the three parties, only the Conservatives have sent me any emails so far. In fact, I've received six of them in two weeks, which may be too frequent for some people. I signed up for all three on February 3, and have not heard from Labour or the Liberal Democrats since, which is poor form. 

When a customer, or in this case a potential voter, has taken the time to sign up, it is good practice to send a welcome message soon after. 

This confirms the subscription, and provides more of an opportunity to connect with the subscriber and encourage them to read some of the content while they are interested, or find out about what the party is doing in their area. 

Also, by failing to send these messages and leaving a delay before the first contact, recipients are likely to forget they signed up at all, and may ignore the email or even unsubscribe. 

If customers have taken the time to sign up for emails, failing to send welcome emails while they have expressed an interest is a wasted opportunity.

In the next post on the subject, which I will write whenever Labour and the Liberal Democrats actually send me an email or two, I'll compare the three parties for their email content. 

At the moment though, I'm not impressed, and there seems to be plenty of room for improvement. 

Graham Charlton

Published 18 February, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (4)


Sumeet Vermani

This comes as a big surprise to me given the success of Obama and the increasingly digital world we live in - especially surprised at the Labour party who as far as I am aware are working with the agency that helped Obama on his campaign!

As rightly pointed out there is huge room for improvement here and is something that is not limited to politics as many organisations in the corporate world have a long way to go in terms of email marketing, website usability and general customer engagement through the digital sphere.

over 6 years ago


Guy Shelton

Return Path's first ever research into the effectiveness of UK political party email marketing, has also just been published. We signed up to the email programmes of the UK's established political parties and tracked each email campaign over the course of two months.

The Conservative Party has an overwhelmingly better email programme than any of its election rivals. Yet all of the UK's main political parties - including the Tories - are making fundamental errors in their mass email communications and are consequently missing opportunities to influence voters in the run-up to this year's general election.

Our research revealed that most of the political parties were effectively ignoring subscribers who had signed up to receive email messages. More than half of the parties studied sent fewer than two messages over the two months of the study. Labour sent just one email during this period, while the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scottish National Party and the Democratic Unionist Party sent none at all.

The researchers also found that Labour and Conservatives both failed to use the demographic data that they collected to target voters with customised messages.

Social Media: Almost every political party studied promoted their social media presence on the homepage of their websites, with the exception of Labour and the SNP; yet only the Conservatives and the BNP incorporated social media links into their email messages.

Detail available here: http://www.returnpath.net/blog/2010/02/conservative-party-scores-emai.php#more

over 6 years ago


Craig Elder

Interesting post, Graham, although I would have to challenge the idea that your research shows all three political parties "failing" when it comes to email marketing.

That you've not heard from either Labour or the Lib Dems in the 15 days since signing up is a very telling statistic and shows a clear lack of commitment to the medium on their part.

In contrast, you received 6 messages from us in the same period. Although you said this might be too much for people, the Obama campaign was often sending out 5-8 in a single week.

We regularly hear that the Labour Party have "learned the lessons of Obama", but as you’ve found, they’re clearly neglecting the area which his team valued most (e-mail) in favour of a tool which they were largely dismissive of (Twitter).

Is there room for improvement in our offering? Of course - and you raise some thought-provoking points - but your overall assessment that we're on the same level as the other two parties is not borne out by the evidence.

In contrast, ReturnPath (who conducted a two month survey into the same area) found that we scored an "Email Marketing Landslide" over our rivals.

I look forward to reading your thoughts when you revisit this topic - assuming, of course, that Labour or the Lib Dems ever actually get round to sending you any emails...

Craig Elder
Online Communities Editor, The Conservative Party

over 6 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Craig, thanks for the comments. Perhaps 'fail' was too strong a word, though I think all three have scope for improvement. By failing to send welcome emails I think the other two parties have failed though. 

Whether 6 mails in two weeks is too many is for the subscriber to decide, though some night take the view that it is too many. That's something you will be able to decide when you see the metrics for your email campaigns. 

I will be revisiting this issue if and when I receive an email or two from your rival parties, looking at the content of emails, how they render in various email platforms etc.

The Conservative emails I have seen so far are very image heavy, and require recipients to download the images, which may deter some. Anyway, we'll see how the Labour and Lib Dem emails compare when they get around to sending me some. 

over 6 years ago

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