Lessons Learned From The Writers' Strike

No questions for the Email Diva? Very well, then: a lecture.

There is an important lesson for email marketers to learn from television. In the olden days, we had three networks from which to choose. Then came cable and satellite dishes and suddenly there were zillions of shows, yet the familiar refrain: "A thousand channels and nothing is on." Next came DVRs, which gave consumers control over their viewing lives. The big networks struggled to draw an audience and remain relevant. The tried and true formulas just weren't working.

Then something interesting happened. People started talking about TV shows again. They began devoting nights to their favorite programs, paying for premium networks, buying past seasons on DVDs, extending the viewing experience online, and talking about characters and episodes with passion.

What caused this? Two things: reality shows and deep, complex shows with larger-than-life characters and intricate, serial plots. Shows like "Lost," "24," "Heroes," "Desperate Housewives," "Entourage" and "Weeds."



Then came the writer's strike and we all realized what was at the root of great TV: great writing. A thousand new reality TV shows couldn't replace these outstanding fictional plots in our hearts and minds.

And herein lies the lesson for email marketers. While we wring our hands over spam filters, overcrowded inboxes and declining response rates, and seek a quick-fix band-aid for our problems, are we overlooking the importance of great copywriting?

As I pointed out in this article, even a humble transactional message can be written with flair. Even when there is very little copy, it can be evocative and benefit-driven, as in a recent Target email: "Living Room + Dining Room. Spaces to live. Spaces to love.Home Office Furniture. Taskmasters and spacesavers.Home. Unleash some elegance."

And don't forget about the back story: The popularity of reality TV shows we enjoy bearing witness to the human drama. Where did you get the inspiration for the development of your latest product or service? What obstacles did you overcome? What was the big aha moment? Did the buyer come across this item in a roadside stand? Did your CEO start in the mailroom? You may not know these stories, but someone does, and all you need to do is put this person in touch with your writer.

Finally, give your writers something to write about. Don't ask them to put lipstick on your pig of a strategy. Need inspiration? Look again to reality TV shows, many of which have applied the Email Diva's vision of the future of marketing: a partnership of the charitable and the commercial. Think "Celebrity Apprentice," "Extreme Home Makeover," "Oprah's Big Give." We like to feel good about the companies we support, and that happens when they support worthwhile causes.

Good Luck!

The Email Diva

Send your questions or submit your email for critique to Melinda Krueger, the Email Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

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