10 tips for crafting stories that inspire action

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A few days ago, we shared two models of writing emails that inspire people to do things (catch up here if you haven’t read it yet!).

Whatever you’re mobilising people to do, you can really maximise the impact of your email with a few key tactics – so today we’re following it up with ten of our favourite tips.

1. Match the scale of problem to the action.

Too often, we hear people say, “This problem is huge – and I am just one person.” It’s easy to feel lost and disempowered in the face of huge corporate greed or lack of access to political decision making – but the alternative is not doing anything at all.

Effective emails present big problems as conquerable, and individuals as having huge collective power. You’re not campaigning to overhaul governments or tear down corporations – you’re trying to gather enough people to change a decision that will be made next week, or increase the visibility of a group of people, or help keep a school above water. Little actions add up to a lot!

2. Connect with people’s values.

People are motivated to do things because they care. Whatever you’re fighting to achieve, find a way to speak about the things that your readers hold dear, whether it’s their health, their homes, their family, or broader concepts of justice and fairness.

3. Focus on one issue.


If there’s a time to talk about the interconnectedness of your ask with everything else around it… a campaign email is not the time to do it. Too much information can be hard to digest, and chances are if your supporters are on your mailing list, they might not need it explained to them from scratch anyway.

Isolate your issue from everything else. Keep a narrow focus and only tell people what they need to know to finish this specific action.

4. Only make one ask.

Often, we see emails that have a big, urgent call to action – but in between, there are inline links to more resources, or related blogposts, or social sharing options.

Every non-CTA in your email is another opportunity for someone to click away without converting. You should only have one ask in your email, and every link should lead to it. Your readers should only have two options: initiate the call to action, or exit the email.

5. Give a deadline.


Part of what makes a campaign email effective is urgency. Whether there is a real, external deadline or a constructed internal one, using one will motivate supporters to act now rather than later.

6. A/B test like your life depends on it.

We tend to make assumptions about what will be successful based on history and what we personally find aesthetically pleasing.

This is just how our emails have always looked”, “We’ve always done it this way,” “I don’t like that shade of blue” – those sentences might sound a little familiar to you.

But just because your gut says something will work… doesn’t mean it will. And just because something looks nice, doesn’t mean it’s effective.


In 2012, the Obama team tested ‘ugly’ emails vs ‘pretty’ ones. Surprisingly, the ugly plain-text one with weird formatting and yellow highlighting was the one that performed the best – generating millions in campaign donations.

So check your assumptions at the door and get testing!

7. Don’t get complacent.

That email with the ugly yellow highlighting was so successful the team decided to continue doing it…but after a while, it stopped working. People get used to things, and then they start tuning them out.

Something that worked a month or a year ago might not work now – so keep testing and challenging your assumptions.

8. Keep it scannable.

People scroll much more than they used to, but attention is still accumulated at the top of the page. Keep your emails short – less than 300 words – break your paragraphs into 2-3 lines long, and keep it scannable.

Bolding the sentences you want people to remember is like telling two stories in one. A reader with time can read through the whole thing – but a reader who’s going to skim read can still get the same story by scanning just the bolded bits.

9. Optimise for mobile.

Mobile accounts for over 55% of all email opens, and mobile users are three times more likely than desktop users to open emails. That means you need to be optimising for email.

Mobile users are often on the go and using data to load content – so make sure you’re using responsive email templates, cutting down on unnecessary images, decreasing file sizes, increasing link sizes, using big CTA buttons, and previewing your email on mobile before every send.


What techniques do you use for mobilising your supporters? Let us know in the comments!

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