Everything Old Is New Again

June 1, 2018

I haven’t written in a while. Yes, it’s part of my day job, but I haven’t written for me in a long while.

I could blame social media – the ease of delivering thoughts in a sentence or two when sharing an article that no one clicks through to anyway really has changed what it means to have an opinion on things these days. But that’d be too easy.

I’ve just gotten out of the habit and grown a little rusty.

Not that I was a spectacular writer in the first place. But there’s no time like the present to get back on the horse.

So another reset is in order because I don’t even remember what I’ve written over the last 17 on-and-off years that’s worth keeping. I’ll revisit and reshare, but for now let’s give this another go.


May 1, 2018

How’s your inbox looking this morning? Probably a bit better than yesterday’s campaign convulsion of emails because of some arbitrary internal end of month goal that would be the difference between victory and becoming the next Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia (depending on the campaign). We all hear about the “WE NEED 192 MORE DONORS BY MIDNIGHT!” problem (boy, do we hear it) — but what happens when they miss that goal? Where are the morning after emails? Don’t worry, dear reader, Uncle Jay’s got you covered.


Have you ever typed with your nose? I tried this morning. It’s not very easy.

You see, FNAME, we missed our goal yesterday of 135 more donors before our midnight deadline. And you may not know this about the Senator but he’s a mean drunk.

FNAME, he broke my left hand. And I’m a southpaw.

So we’re getting a head start on May’s goal of 300 new donors by the end of the month. Can I count on you to save my right hand?

Nose typing, FNAME. It’s as degrading as it sounds.

Give before our May 30th deadline and your gift will be QUADRUPLE MATCHED and oh god please help me.

Thank you and excelsior!

Finance Director
Candidate for Senate

PS – Sweet Jesus, he’s awake and still drunk, please help today!

Campaigns, if you’d like to use this copy, I want 5% of the cut.

Pantera 2000-2017

September 8, 2017

Today was tough. Today we said goodbye to Pantera.

17 years. A lot has happened since that matted mess of a kitten showed up on the doorstep. Nine homes across two cities, relationships, friendships, school, marriage, a dog, a kid, another kid. The one constant was that fluffy white princess cat named Pantera.

We were a package deal. She was always at my feet begging for whatever I was eating or curled up in my lap purring because that’s all she needed. And sometimes it was all I needed.

Our two became three and she found her second person in Ana. Then three became four and she realized Milo wasn’t leaving so she taught him how to beg for food and blew his mind when she’d rub on him.
Then four became five and Pantera replaced Ana as her second person (sorry Ana) with Sam. She loved that little boy, would sit outside his room and meow in the morning, would love on him when he got out of bed, would be in his room as he played and he’d read to her and she’d purr because that was all she needed.

Then five became six and she would drape across our laps as we fed Jasper and she’d sniff his toes and rub on his legs.

Then six became five. Two became one.

The final due of having a pet, of choosing to love something and care for something so small and with no utility, of having something that loves you back unconditionally, is that one day you achingly say goodbye.

She wasn’t just a cat. She was Pantera. She was my first pet. She was a constant.

I was her person. And now I’m a grown ass man weeping over a fluffy white princess cat. She was the best damn cat in the world.

I’ll miss you, little girl.

Email Fundraising and the Fine Art of Shaming

July 25, 2014

There are a lot of factors that go into why Democrats seem to be better at email fundraising than Republicans.

Personalities matter – it’s easier to fundraise for a rockstar (Obama) than a perceived run of the mill candidate (Romney).

Audience matters – Republicans just think and give differently than Democrats.

Issues matter – emotionally driven politics that appeal to a lowest common denominator see better success than something you have to think about to really grasp and care about (also why Democrats have cooler bumperstickers).

But the biggest issue is really the same battle that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting in inboxes, on the airwaves, in mailboxes, door to door, and face to face:


There is a right way and a wrong way to deliver any message. “It’s a boy!” is infinitely more positive than “It’s not a girl!” “My mom works as a mortician” is infinitely more positive than “My mom’s in a morgue.”

“Join us” is infinitely more positive than “Don’t abandon us.”

Today we got a great example of this. The RNC sent out an email to a huge list that split tested between a couple headlines:

Jason, did you abandon the RNC?

Have you given up on Republicans?

Out the gate this email creates a visceral reaction that, sure, will get a few people to open it, but already turns off a vast majority of the audience it’s seeking to appeal to.

The other problem is it uses language that’s already something the Republican brand is suffering from. Far too often you hear from Tea Party-ists, libertarians, social conservatives, moderates, and others that “I did’t abandon the Republican Party, the Republican Party abandoned me.” This is language everyone involved in messaging in the Republican Party is familiar with – and to ignore it is a huge mistake. This email invites a negative response before it’s even opened.

The guts don’t get much better. Let’s take it in parts:

Did you abandon the Republican Party?

No matter what the subject line was, they still hit you with the “abandon” rhetoric. You start on a negative, pushing away the reader and asking them “why aren’t you my friend anymore?” Just as it’s inappropriate for you to nag someone for refusing to respond to your texts after a second date, you really shouldn’t do the same when asking for money.

Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven’t received your financial support yet this year.

“You’re ignoring us. I mean, the CHAIRMAN wrote you and you still didn’t give.”

The RNC is implying that you got their email, read their email, then tossed it in the trash. Not that you maybe missed it. Or that it went into your spam folder. Or that your kid accidentally deleted it when playing with your iPhone. They’re jilted.

Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That’s why we still believe you haven’t given up on the Republican Party yet.

Here’s a big issue with the email: the RNC is implying that if you haven’t given them a dime, then clearly you don’t believe in the Republican Party and conservative principles. Sure, you may volunteer locally, be a dues paying member of your local unit, bleed for a Senate campaign or have maxed out on every Congressional race in your state. But that’s a springtime Republican. You need to be an all-of-the-time Republican by giving RIGHT NOW.

So we are giving you one more chance to renew your membership with the Republican National Committee.

One more chance. And if you miss this chance, don’t worry. They’re going to send you an email time and time again asking for more money because, c’mon, they need your money.

Right now you are handing the advantage over to Democrats. That’s exactly what President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want you to do. With committed Republicans like you sitting out in 2014, the Democrats are able to continue their liberal rampage on conservative principles.

Again, the RNC are the gatekeepers of all things Republican. You’re lame if you don’t give them your hard-earned money.

Also, it’s an odd appeal to people who believe in individual responsibility. They’re saying it’s your individual responsibility to give, but using a negative means of doing so. If YOU don’t take responsibility, it’s YOUR fault, YOU lost this, YOU suck.

Personally, I always buy my hot dogs from the vendor who insults me the most.

2014 is our last chance to step in, step up, and take back the Senate to regain Republican control in Washington. Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party now.

Two issues: 2014 is not the last election ever. And Republicans still won’t have the White House, so total control is still out of reach.

Renew your membership with the Republican National Committee now and support our fight to defeat liberal Democrats.

Membership. What does membership get you? A cool hat? A new rag to wash your car with t-shirt? A lapel pin?

No. You get to call yourself a Republican. Isn’t that awesome?


Tony Parker
RNC Treasurer

Honestly, when I first saw the “from” field, I wondered why the San Antonio Spurs point guard was insulting my degree of Republican-ness.

Now, the RNC has gotten heat on this and responded by saying, “hey, Democrats do this all the time!”

“We are always searching for the most effective digital techniques to engage our grassroots and ensure we have the funds necessary to win the midterm elections,” said RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski. “The Democrats have used this tactic regularly – the DCCC did a 48 hour thing like this a couple weeks ago.”

Sure, the DCCC and others have done something “like this” frequently. Shaming people into contributing works – you want to make them feel like they’re missing the boat and don’t want to be the odd man out when all the cool kids contribute.

But it’s HOW they said it that matters. For example:


We don’t mean to nag, but President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi have all asked for your help and we are still lagging dangerously behind.

This is the final notice of your member status before the fundraising deadline.

Name: Jason “The Awesome” Kenney
Supporter record: 8675309
Suggested Support: $5.00

We need a HUGE day today to respond to the unprecedented attacks we’re facing from the Kochs. And since we can only count donations that come in before midnight towards the goal, now is the time to act. Jason, this could make or break us right here.

We need 12,371 more donations by tonight’s midnight fundraising deadline to close the gap. Will you chip in whatever you can now?

MIDNIGHT DEADLINE: All Gifts Triple-Matched!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:






Or click here to donate another amount.


DCCC Membership

First, it’s short and sweet.

Second, it really talks up the membership aspect, complete with a fake number and a specific ask in order to be a member.

Third, it doesn’t way “THE WORLD WILL END” if you don’t give nor do they question your commitment to the cause. They simply say that it’ll be harder to win. And you want to win, right?

Fourth, they give you a goal you feel that can be achieved. It’s a numbers game. People like numbers and they like games. You can be part of the exclusive national audience of 12,371 who help get them over their goal by midnight tonight.

And this is where we see why Democrats are better than Republicans at email fundraising: The RNC email is a caricature of the DCCC email. Someone at the RNC read the DCCC email and walked away with the impression that it was berating, threatening, and demeaning, so they wrote exactly that and sent it out because, hey, it worked for them!

But what worked for the Democrats wasn’t done over night. It was built, it was tested, it was monitored, it was tweaked, it was softened, it failed, it succeeded, and it worked. Democrats have figured out the art of shaming with a gentle touch while the RNC is trying to do it with a club.

The broad brush concepts behind what the Democrats do well are straight forward:

1) Keep it brief – Short and sweet, get to the point.

2) Make people feel like part of something – We need you to join a number of people just like you!

3) Keep it cheap – Easier to get someone to part with their daily Starbucks than a credit card payment.

Consider the following:

I know you’ve been getting a lot of these but I wanted to make sure you knew that now’s your last chance to help us before tonight’s deadline. We’re so close to our goal but we could still use your help.

$5 will go a long way to fight back against the attacks that are coming every day.

We need 1,253 more donors to meet our goal by midnight tonight. Won’t you help tonight?

Some links to click to specific amounts because people like that stuff.

This stuff works. It’s how Democrats do it. It’s how E.W. Jackson was able to show more individual contributions than any other non-incumbent Lieutenant Governor candidate in Virginia’s history (end self horn tooting).

It’s just a start. I could write a book about list segmentation, data mining, targeting messaging based on interests, past open rates, donor history, etc (If the RNC sent this to existing donors, heaven help them…)

But if we can’t get the messaging right, the data’s going to be worthless.

Thankfully, these kind of emails out of the RNC and other Republicans are rare. The core Republican message can resonate and is something that can be packaged to new voters. But we don’t need to berate the choir to get them to sing in key.

Virtually Farming For Public Relations or How Not To Game The System

June 4, 2010

Let’s say you’re BP. You are nearly fifty days into what could be the worst environmental disaster in United States history. Ouch, that’s going to be a heck of a public relations nightmare, isn’t it? But, wait, here’s an idea! Why not invite all those connected Facebook users who live along the Gulf coast to play a game to raise awareness about the environment!

Volunteers could “check in” at locations via Foursquare and unlock badges for their volunteer efforts. Or they could earn patches of the ocean as rewards — similar to the (Lil) Green Patch game on Facebook that empowers users to fight global warming.

That’s just the kind of strategy companies and organizations need to be pursuing to win public relations battles in this social-networking era. (Source)

Yes, because while you’re looking out on the shore and see the oil on the horizon threatening your family’s future and your community’s economy and environment FarmVille will solve the problem.

I’m sorry, but if I were living in Louisiana and BP sent me an invite to “check in” and unlock badges or get myself a patch of the ocean as a reward I’d tell them where to virtually stick it.

Social gaming is pretty darn big as anyone with a Facebook account and a million invites to Mafia Wars will tell you. With applications like Foursquare and Gowalla providing virtual merit badges for physically roaming about town, there are opportunities for businesses to really turn online interest into offline activity in new and exciting ways (insert “ooohhhh” and “aaahhhh” here).

Social gaming requires a certain level of buy in and effort by the users, usually for little reward other than bragging points. It is the companies who help create real world reasons to play that capitalize best off of this.

Richmond has already experienced a few local examples of businesses utilizing Foursquare successfully. Westpark Beer & Wine hosted a Foursquare Swarm Badge party in March, filling the store with over 50 customers who enjoyed a wine tasting and received a 10% discount through the end of Spring just by showing their Swarm Badge. Many local businesses are already rewarding Foursquare users all sorts of discounts and freebies not just for Mayors but just for checking in.

National brands such as Starbucks have also started offering rewards. Pepsi has developed it’s own application, Pepsi Loot, that tells you where to find the closest delicious Pepsi and rewards you for checking into Pepsi serving establishments with free music to enjoy while partaking of your delicious cola.

What makes these attempts successful are the REAL rewards given for virtual efforts. Foursquare just gives you badges that look neat on your phone and maybe profile. Foursquare + businesses = free stuff that make you really want to play more because, hey, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Companies aren’t just getting on board with location based games. Zynga, the folks you should blame for FarmVille and Mafia Wars, have teamed up with 7-11to provide packaging for your hot dogs that include codes to get you stuff for Zynga games. Not only that, but 10% of the United States spends their time playing FarmVille. Yes, that’s right, your grandmother and at least two of your cousins are playing FarmVille.

There’s gold in them there virtual hills for businesses and organizations who can wisely invest in the medium.

It’s a matter of finding your niche and utilizing it properly. But also working the measure into your already existing Public Relations strategy (or nightmare depending on what’s happening).

If you’re, say, Roundup and you want to spread your brand’s name, latching onto something like FarmVille might be a smart play:

But Roundup isn’t faced with an environmental disaster that will take years to measure the full results of.

If you’re BP, is this a wise investment? Do you really take your money and personnel and image and buy into a game when public opinion right now is that you aren’t doing enough to stop the spill? That you aren’t taking it seriously?

That’s thousands of dollars BP could and should be putting into clean-up costs, measures to help small businesses in the effected area, local charities that will be directly impacted by the catastrophe. Real world investments that are the kind of public relations BP needs to be “buying” right now.

Look at Nestle, a small chocolate company you may have heard of. They got into a bit of bad publicity that they handled very poorly on Facebook when an organized Greenpeace effort to give them grief over its use of palm oil succeeded mainly because Nestle’s social media presence acted like jerks. What did Nestle do to help their image? They didn’t invite folks to plant virtual trees in their farm. They didn’t ask people to volunteer to go to the rain forest and replant trees they had a hand in cutting down in exchange for virtual badges or plots of forest to claim as their own. No. They partnered with The Forest Trust and began work on changing the way they do business to be more environmentally conscious in the future. They developed a strategy that created real world results for their efforts.

BP’s trying to buy forgiveness. And you don’t get that with virtual rewards that rely upon the efforts of those you are trying to win over. You get that by actually investing in the physical things that play directly into the results you want to see. You spend your time and money focusing on the communities directly impacted by the disaster. Because no matter how bad this spill gets, Facebook, FarmVille, Foursquare? They’ll still be there. But will the Gulf Coast?

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