David Miliband's email for change

I’ve just received my first email from David Miliband, and as someone who thinks he knows a thing or two about email I thought I’d share an opinion or two.

First thing to note is that it’s been written in HTML.

The header of David Miliband's email newsletter

Now I’m not totally against HTML emails, they offer a level of branding exposure that you won’t get with text, however in this context I think it was a poor choice, and here’s why.

Getting personal

Text is more personal. It’s the equivalent of a hand written thank you card at Christmas rather than a typed one that probably used a mail merge. Even if David himself actually wrote this, knowing it subsequently went to a mark-up kid means it looses a little of it’s shine.

When vital messages get lost

David’s email is actually a very light on HTML. I’ve taken to calling this ‘rich text’ meaning it doesn’t rely too heavily on tables and images to covey a message, you get 90%+ of it from the text alone. If you rely too heavily on images you run the risk of vital messages being lost as email clients typically don’t allow images to be displayed until the recipient agrees to it. This is particularly important if it’s the first email and the recipient hasn’t had a chance to add you to their safe list.

David’s team deserve credit in this respect. The header image doesn’t cause material damage to the email if it doesn’t load, and the body of the email is all text. In fact, they only make use of one ‘a’ tag, and that’s for no apparent reason in the post script. Every other link is written out in full which 99% of email clients will convert automatically - it’s almost as if this was meant to be text! And then, just as you’re about to give him the perfect 10 he does this:

The footer of David Miliband's email newsletter

Follow you? But, which link do I click David? I suppose I could just guess… Ok, I being unfair, it’s actually really powerful to use the Twitter and Facebook branding to good effect in an email, however not including an alt tag to guide those who haven’t accepted your images is a massive mistake.

Other small changes

A clear unsubscribe link is vitally important. Studies have shown that users are increasingly hitting ‘spam’ rather than unsubscribing from email lists even if it’s not junk. In fact this has lead ESPs such as Gmail to develop tools to combat this habit as a way of helping good senders.

I personally would include an unsub link at the top of an email, but if you’re not going to do that, at least have some clear descriptive text around it. David’s email lacks in this area, and yet it can be solved with some as simple as:

You can instantly unsubscribe from these emails by clicking the link below

Last of all there’s the ‘from name’

David Miliband, DavidMiliband.net

just seems a little odd. Just David Miliband would suffice.

I’ve signed up to all the other candidates emails too, I’ll be back with some thoughts on how they do later.

Daniel Bower

Blogging about platform regulation: algorithms, interoperability, kill zones as well as other bits and bobs. Read about my research, or read more about me.