Writing and Strategy

NOI Tips: Identify your goals before writing emails

Photo from Flickr user thetorpedodog, shared under Creative Commons license

Photo from Flickr user thetorpedodog, shared under Creative Commons license

It’s one of the most basic rules of online organizing: Identify your goals before you start writing an email.

From New Organizing Institute Tips,
March 15, 2012.

Not just what action you want your list to take, but what messages you want to convey, what impressions you want to leave, what information you want to explain. Your audience should be able to answer questions, like: Who are the key players? What is happening? How can I help? Why do it now?

But surprisingly, it is also one of the most oft-broken rules. We see this most often when it comes to stories.

If your goal is to explain the impact of a piece of legislation, a real-life story can give it a human face. If you want your email opening to grab your readers and draw them in, a story may be the way to go. If you want to outline a problem, a story can really connect. But if you want to motivate your readers, our testing shows that it rarely works to simply tell a heart-wrenching story and then ask people to act. Instead, engage your supporters by talking about a particular moment in time and how the outcome rests on what your readers do.

So before you start writing, ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve? Then sculpt your content to meet your goals.

Steve Daigneault and Colin Holtz are online strategists at M+R Strategic Services and NOI community members