[Hpn] FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO BE HEARD: WHEN NOT TO USE EMAIL
Sat, 10 Jun 2000 20:28:00 -0700
Note from Sam Clauder:
Please forgive me if you receive multiple copies of this email. It is
such excellent advice that I am sending it out en masse to all my
contacts throughout three email profiles.
FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO BE HEARD: WHEN NOT TO USE EMAIL
Published by NetAction Issue No. 57 May 31, 2000
For the complete list of NetAction's Email Outreach "Do's and
Don'ts," see: <http://www.netaction.org/training/part2.html>.
When NOT To Use Email
Grassroots activists and nonprofit organizations that have tried it
know that email can be a powerful tool for outreach and advocacy.
Online action alerts make it possible for activist groups to mobilize
their supporters almost instantly. Electronic newsletters let
nonprofit groups communicate with their members for a fraction of the
cost of traditional newsletters.
But email isn't always the most appropriate tool. In our Virtual
Activist Training Guide, NetAction advises against using email to
communicate with policy makers. In recent months, several readers
have asked us why this is the case. So we decided it was time to
revisit the issue.
Although there are certainly exceptions, most policy makers still
don't give email correspondence the same attention they give to phone
calls and letters. There are a number of reasons for this:
* Policy makers know that email correspondence requires less effort
than picking up the phone or writing and mailing a letter, so it's
less valuable as an indicator of public opinion.
* It's not always possible to confirm that the sender is a
constituent. Correspondence from people who don't vote in the
decision maker's district gets less attention than correspondence
* Since Internet users may have more than one email address, it's
possible for a small number of people to generate a large volume of
correspondence. This also diminishes its value as an indicator of
* Many decision makers still don't use email regularly and
consequently don't place much value on email correspondence.
While all of this is likely to change over time, NetAction believes
we have a long way to go before policy makers really accept email
correspondence as an indicator of public opinion.
This does NOT mean that email is a less effective tool for outreach
and advocacy. It just means that we need to recognize its limitations
and develop our online advocacy strategies accordingly.
Email is still a powerful tool for educating and mobilizing
activists. Use it to let your members know when phone calls or
letters are necessary, and to distribute sample letters and the
addresses and phone numbers of targeted decision makers. Use it to
educate activists by directing them to online background information.
Use it to "brainstorm" with other activists about strategy, and to
But for the time being, we recommend that you pick up the phone or
put a letter in the mail box when you want to communicate your
concerns to policy makers.
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