I’ve lost count of the number of campaigns who’ve added me to their mailing list in the last year, but it’s hitting a crescendo and I’ve grown tired of the countless e-mails I’ve sent asking to be taken off of their lists. Only one of the campaigns so far is using a real e-mail distribution service (like Constant Contact, for instance) – every other one just sends a blast e-mail with no indication of how to be removed.
The first few I ignored, recognizing that as a former party chair in the state I was bound to be on some lists. But by winter I’d grown mildly curious: where were these guys getting my address? I’d keep making it clear I didn’t live in Illinois, I’d keep asking to be removed, and sometimes they’d acknowledge receipt (not often) and remove me. Too often my e-mail went unanswered, and I’d get the next randomly-timed e-mail blast from them, repeating the cycle.
If this were one or two campaigns I’d let it slide. But it’s growing – I estimate at least half of the Congressional races in Illinois have added me to their list. Where are they getting my name from? My blog is linked to from Rich Miller’s influential CapitolFaxBlog.com site – and they are apparently spamming everyone on that list. (Three of the campaigns have admitted this is where they got my name from; no clue if the others are following suit, but it sure fits the pattern.)
This raises a couple thoughts: first, these guys shouldn’t be spamming everyone on someone’s blogroll. Reach out. Offer to introduce the candidate, host a bloggers conference call, or forward some info that appears related to something that I care about. Impersonal spam is bad. Blank e-mails with Word docs attached (Press Releases!) are worse. I understand that they’re under pressure, everyone’s talking about Barack’s success online and translating that to “I gots to get me some blog action” but good God: is it really so much to ask to put 10-15 minutes worth of time into thinking this through?
When I left Illinois I was cautiously optimistic about where things were headed. The Democratic Party in DuPage County is stronger than it was when I left; Bowen ran a great race for Bill Foster in the 14th and won Denny Hastert‘s old seat. That tall guy with the funny name’s running a pretty good operation out of Chicago. But if the stream of spam in my inbox is any indication, the state of online campaigning at the Congressional level in Illinois is stuck circa 1998.
Here’s some free advice, guys. Talk to your constituents. If you have some bloggers in your district (chances are you do), engage them. Meet them for coffee. Call them. Invite their feedback on what the candidate should be doing. (Bonus tip: Listen to what they say! Their ears are often closer to the ground than yours.) If you’re doing something noteworthy online, take time to explain how it’s worthy of attention. (Second bonus tip: attaching Word docs to your e-mail is a near guarantee that no matter how innovative you think your online efforts are, they aren’t. No, really.) Don’t add people to a distribution list without giving them an option of being removed. Don’t send an e-mail without including a way to automatically remove themselves from the distribution. (Yeah, yeah: you’re a non-profit and CAN-SPAM doesn’t apply to you. But just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly annoying. And I’m pretty sure the “Getting Elected for Dummies” book doesn’t have a chapter about how annoying voters leads to earning their vote.)
And please, please, please. Take me off your list. I’m not naming names this time. Can’t promise I won’t be so aggravated that I’ll resist the urge a second time.