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A guide to Email writing for Action by Ben Brandzel

From Moment To Movement And Beyond

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  • 1. A guide to Email writing for Actionby Ben Brandzel

2. Anatomy of an Email 3. The Moment Story

  • This is the first part of the email
  • Draws the reader in:
    • Whats happening right now?
    • Why does it matter?
    • What should we do about it?
  • Almost always what makes or breaks an action email
  • There are 3 basic parts to a Moment Story


  • Crisitunity is real world situation that is either a crisis about to unfold ( bad thing possible ) or the opportunity potentially to be achieved ( good thing possible )
  • Its the hook for any compelling
  • action email
  • If it doesnt matter to you,it doesnt matter.

Moment pt. 1: The Crisitunity 5. Crisitunity Examples

  • Bush has vetoed childrens health care.< crisis >Congress can override him, but it must act quickly. < opportunity >
  • Monks are being killed in Burma < crises > and China has the power to stop it. < opportunity >
  • The Bali summit may produce a binding climate plan to dramatically slow global warming. < opportunity > But if polluter nations scuttle the negotiations we may never get another chance < crisis >

6. Crisitunity Non-Examples

  • Were working day and night to protect the earth.
  • Global warming threatens our very way of life.
  • Parliament doesnt think that you care!

7. Moment pt 2: Reader Focused Theory of Change (RFTC)

  • The Reader Focused Theory of Change (RFTC) is the:
    • cause-and-effect sequencethat
    • begins with something the reader can tangibly do , and
    • ends with the resolution of the cristitunity.

8. RFTC Examples

  • Congress must understand that their constituents will not allow childrens health care to disappear. We have to show them this is about more than election year politics this is about our families lives, and we will not rest until Congress overrides Bushs veto and stands up for our kids.
  • China is Burmas only real ally, and if they pressure the junta, Than Shwe will have to back down. Its up to us to call on China and make sure that they do. So were launching a petition today and broadcasting your signatures through an ad in the Financial Times with a huge circulation among the power brokers of Bejing.
  • The United States, Canada and Japan are dragging their heels in Bali. But they dont realize that millions of their own citizens back home are watching, and ready to demand better. Together, we can remind them who they serve, and push them back onto the right course.

9. RFTC Non-Examples

  • Missing : Global poverty is terrible, and weve launched a petition to stop it.
  • Impossible: George Bush has staked his presidency on privatizing social security. So weve launched a petition asking him to stop.
  • Obscure: Climate change threatens us all, and were working night and day to stop it. Please contribute to keep our campaign going.

10. Moment pt. 3: The Ask

  • The ask is the actual thing you want your reader to do.
  • It should clearly trigger the RFTC and help resolve the Crisitunity.
  • It should be clear, vivid, and basic.

11. Ask Examples

  • Please take a few minutes write your member of Congress to tell your personal story about how public healthcare has effected your family. Maybe its a story from your own childhood, or a niece, nephew or cousin. Maybe its your own child. Whatever your story, if you share it now you can help save childrens health care. You can write and submit your story online right here:
  • Please sign our petition right now to ensure your initials shows up in our FT ad. And then forward this note to friends and family who also want to help the Burmese . You can sign by entering your information online at the link below:
  • Please click below to find the phone number for your head of state and primary representative to the Bali summit. Then just call em up, and say that as a constituent you demand that your nation stop blocking progress towards a binding climate treaty in Bali. Heres all the info you need:

12. Moment Extras

  • Tactical goals:( We need 1000 letters to the editor! )
  • Timeframe/Deadline:( We're going to deliver these petitions next Saturday !)
  • Protaganist development( Senator Wellstone is a rare progressive champion who needs our help )
  • Antagonist development( Chevron has stomped all over human rights for years -- they are a poster child for corporate greed that must be stopped)

13. The Strength Test

  • Analyze your Crisitunity, RFTC, and Ask
    • Are they each inherently plausible?
    • Is the connection between them sound?
    • Does any significant portion of your base disagree?
  • If any element of the Moment Story needs strengthening, addSupportunder the link.

14. Examples of Support

  • Crisitunity:Canada is attempting to scuttle the Bali Climate negotiations!
  • Support:The environmental community has just given Canada its third straight Fossil of the Day award for being the biggest road block to progress.
  • RFTC:If China tells Burma to stand down, Burma will comply, and China will respond to our pressure.
  • Support:Burma depends on China for 90% of its cash flow, military support, and agricultural support. And China is desperate to keep Burma from tarnish the upcoming Olympics if its clear that this weeks crackdown is turning the public against China, Chinese authorities will feel great pressure to act.

15. The Movement Story

  • The bigger picture
  • Not necessary all the time, but an important component to thread through
  • Why? Because the Moment story wont always work out. The Movement story is key to transforming your list into something more binding, resilient, and powerful

16. Movement Story components

  • Often Less structured than the Moment Story. Core components include:
  • What's Going On--the deeper descriptive, value based story about what's happening here, or what dynamics are at play in this situation.
  • Example:This health care fight is about ordinary people standing up for families versus the power and greed of the insurance industry. Bush has already made his choice, and we have made ours now its up to Congress to decide what side theyre really on.

17. Movement Story components

  • Who We Are:A deeper, descriptive, value based story about who we are as a community in this situation.
  • ExampleBy standing up for democracy in Burma, were declaring that as citizens of the world, the fate ofeveryperson is our concern. Were not policy experts, were not diplomats, and were not soldiers at war. Were human beings who are committed to stand up for one another -- and thats all we need to win.

18. Movement Story components

  • The Road Were On:A look back at where weve come and/or a look ahead at where this is headed, towards a victory image or end state projection. Particularly focused on theparticipationstory.
  • Example: A year ago, we could only hope that wed be so close to a binding climate treaty. It took millions of calls and letters, thousands of individual meetings and some of the largest rallies the world has yet seen to get us here. Were not done yet, but if we can keep these negotiations on track we can really start to see the outlines of history -- the story we can tell our grand children about how we fought for, and how we won, a planet they can still enjoy.

19. The P.S.

  • One of the most read items in the email
  • Use it to continue a story that doesnt fit with the overall narrative, or
  • Use it to repeat and emphasize the basic ask, or
  • Use it to add a twist to the ask, like please forward this note on to others who may be interested.

20. King Scanability

  • Most readers Scan, they dont Read.
  • That means the best content in the world is useless if it cannot be scanned. Hence, Scanability is King.
  • Three major factors contribute to Scanabality:
  • Word count
  • Paragraph density
  • Bolding/formatting

21. King Scanability Example

  • Exhibit A: perfectly good text, pretty tough to scan.
  • Theglobal struggle against climate change has come a long way -- but we can't succeeduntil the US joins us.The Bush presidency continues to block real progress,but there's hope for the future: from the grassroots to Congress, the USA is finally waking up to global warming.This Monday, more than 5000 young Americans will gather to lobby their members of Congress for action on climate change. They've asked Avaaz members to write messages to US leaders, and havepromised to hand-deliverour messagesto theirrepresentatives in the US Capitol. It's a huge opportunity: in less than a week, our voices can finally reach the lawmakers of the most-polluting country in world history.
  • These youth leaders, most of them students, are at the forefront of a surging movement to confront the United States's role in the climate crisis.It's easy to help--just click this link, and write a short note to US politicians about why they should join with the rest of the world to act:

22. King Scanability Example cont.

  • Exhibit B: Same outreach, treated for Scanability:
  • The Bush administration continues to block real progress on climate change, but there's hope for the future: from the grassroots to Congress,the USA is finally waking up to global warming. This Monday, more than5000 young Americanswill gather in Washington DC tolobby the US Congressfor action on climate change. They've asked Avaaz members to write personal messages and promised tohand-deliver every note . It's a huge opportunit ytodirectly reach the lawmakersof the most-polluting country in world history.
  • It's easy to help--just click the link below andwrite a short note to US politiciansabout why they should join with the rest of the world to stop global warming:

23. Subject Lines

  • Only rule:Always test
  • As a guideline, think of head over cubicle you want to be intriguing, but not inane
  • If you can customize, do. It always works.
  • Dont forget the Subject Narrative for the 85%

24. From Lines and Signatures

  • No firm rules
  • People do form relationships with senders. Use that.
  • Different voices can really yield better results
    • Relevant professionals (Nurses talking about health care)
    • Grassroots participants (Volunteers in your program)
    • Celebrities (especially if they are respected in the field)
  • Dontonlyuse personal name in from line
  • Signature and from line should match tone and spirit of organization formal or informal

25. Style Tips

  • Colloquial. Letter to a friend.Authentic.
  • At the end of the day, the politicians do have to listen to us after all, we elected them, and we can unelect them. So lets get out there this weekend and do everything we can to save health care for our kids.
  • Vs.
  • Democratic accountability demands responsiveness to our concerns. As their constituents, we hold ultimate power and we must wield it in a coordinated way until we are victorious.

26. Style Tips

  • Show, dont tell .
  • We had members from every state write in to tell us how important this policy is for their children. The testimonials were powerful, personal, and heart rending. They will surely move Congress to action.
  • Vs.
  • We received amazing stories from members in every state. Heres one example, from Diane L, in Biloxi MS,
  • [Actual Note]

27. Style Tips

  • Vivid Imagery
  • The negotiations in Bali are at a standstill thanks to the United States refusal to accept binding climate targets.The international community is outraged and the USA seems to be responding to pressure.
  • VS.
  • In the main conference hall today, the USA refused to accept binding climate targets and delegations from 186 nations stood up and roared in objection. It took over 10 minutes for the gavel to restore order. When the next American representative took the podium, their position had already softenedthe global pressure is working.