Why you should stop taking the GOP Media Accountability Survey — now.

Trump’s Already Campaigning for 2020

I’ve seen a ton of reporting on the “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey” sent over the Donald Trump campaign email list. (It kills me to see reporters report badly on a survey that implicitly implies they are bad at reporting.)

I’ve seen this characterized as a crude “poll.” I’ve seen it reported on as a way to “fight back” against Trump’s stance on the media, because if you take it you can somehow skew the results. I’m here to tell you: Please God, stop taking the survey.

This started on Thursday, when my husband triumphantly exclaimed he was going to take this survey to troll Trump. I responded, dryly, “You know you’re joining his list when you finish, right?” He looked flabbergasted, then quickly closed the survey.

To his credit, you don’t enter your email address until the end of survey (which he hadn’t reached) and he assures me he wouldn’t have entered it. But here’s a first clue as to how you can’t “troll” this survey:

This right here. This is not an official government survey. This is a campaign survey, which they will never share the results on. They probably won’t even read the responses. Believe it or not, Trump is currently campaigning for 2020, and one of the best ways to do that is through online surveys. If you’ve been to Buzzfeed in the last four years, you have probably taken a stupid online quiz (this one is good). Surveys work! They work because people like to tell you about themselves, and when they’re done, they feel good. People who feel good are more likely to give money afterward — which is why this “daisies” (i.e., in a daisy chain) to a donate page.

First thing’s first: The GOP recently did a postmortem on their 2016 digital campaign efforts. They’re pretty proud of something called the “upsell”:

That just means they follow an action with a higher-level action. If you ever did anything on the Obama 2012 email list, which millions of you did, you were confronted with the upsell. It works really well, btw, often better than asking you for money straight out. I would venture to guess that Trump is making a killing off this email through the upsell post-survey.

But you definitely hate Trump, so you definitely didn’t donate. Good! Fuck that guy. And you didn’t put your own email address in either, because you know better. But you did use a dummy email address. Here’s why that’s still pretty shitty (sorry, by the way, to be the bearer of bad news here):

You’re padding his email list — and while I’m not against padding his list with garbage names and eventually, hopefully, forcing them to run spam/cleaning scrubs on his lists, in the meantime he won’t. Here’s three basic reasons why that sucks:

  • He’s being told things in basic, plain numbers (cause the man loves maps and graphs). Therefore, you’re making his day. He’s being told millions of people are taking this survey and the “dishonest media” is reporting on it, and linking to it, so more people take it. All he sees is the raw number of people who take his survey, and it’s gonna be a lot, so he’s going to be pretty happy. Trump’s not the best at understanding when folks don’t like him — he sees you on his page. You’re taking his survey. By all accounts, you’re at least listening to what he’s got to say. Maybe you’re disgusted, maybe you’re infuriated. You’re still giving him attention, and attention is as important to this man as the air he breathes and the KFC he inhales. You’re proving his point either way.
  • Did you know most of the time people run REALLY EXPENSIVE ad campaigns to get you to do stuff like this? You’re saving him money while he’s making it back hand over fist. I’m not an ads person cause I don’t like spreadsheets, but I’m here to tell you: You’re saving him thousands of dollars, if not tens of thousands, by doing his marketing for him.
  • Sure, it’s a garbage list. But if you didn’t catch above with the GOP postmortem, the GOP is kind of behind the times on all things digital. It’s been a real problem for them. So you’re padding his list, and that list will then be rented by other crappy GOP candidates running in your state, or your district, or your town. Trump’s not really an honest guy, so nothing besides the basic moral rules of email list maintenance is keeping him from charging up to $2.50 per email for emails you added like: fuckyou@trumpsucks.com, or agentorange@maralago.com or whatever. You’re still making him money! Why does he care? Sure he’ll eventually have to clean the list, but I mean, we’ve been saying he’s eventually gotta govern and it’s been a month or so now and that hasn’t happened yet either. Don’t hold your breath that he’ll also adhere to basic rules of operation re: list rentals, and the GOP will be none the wiser, cause they suck at digital campaigning.

One last thing: It was pointed out to me this morning that the Trump email list sent what we in the industry call a “kicker” to the original survey email. Why it took him over 24 hours to do that on an email that’s CLEARLY killing it in terms of response speaks to how crappy they are at their jobs. I’d have sent another same day, then another. But what do I know.

They worded it to make it seem like your protest and troll responses are making a difference. Check it out:

This is a pretty common tactic, one that works really well in email marketing. Here’s some other examples of kickers on survey emails:

You’ll notice the language isn’t quite as inflammatory, but pretty catered to the audience. We write to get you to do something. We’re pretty persuasive!

If you were a Trump supporter, what would motivate you to donate more (after you take the survey that you’re now incredibly fired up about, of course) than knowing crappy Democrats are flooding this page with hate? You’re helping him message. You’re fanning the flames.

So, in summary: Stop taking the survey.

Lest I leave you thinking there is no way to fight back, I’m really not saying that. What I am saying is that there are a ton of better ways to do that. Here’s some:

  1. Get involved with an organization called Run for Something, started by the woman who taught me most of this stuff here who served as the Email Director for Hillary Clinton. Amanda Litman is funny, incredibly hard working, a better writer than I’ll ever be, and somehow never tired. She’s helping young people run for office in their communities to really make progress where it counts.
  2. Trump hates the media, did you know? The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, ABC, NBC, they’re all “enemies of the American people” — Trump’s #1 talking point of late has been that they’re failing. Depending on how you look at it, they are: People don’t subscribe to newspapers anymore, and they’re having to trim staff at amazing publications across the country — or pay journalists less, meaning seasoned ones are simply too expensive — to make up for that. If you’ve ever been faced with the dreaded “You’ve read your allotted 5 stories on the Washington Post this month” screen, but then opened the story incognito mode, stop doing that. Put your money where your mouth is: Reporting is expensive, it’s grueling, and often unforgiving. Female journalists are being attacked with death and rape threats constantly by reporting free, for you, on Twitter. Support them by subscribing to their newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Support them by watching the news at night. Support them by spreading and sharing strong journalism. That matters a lot right now.
  3. In 2020, remember how terrible you felt in 2016. Whoever steps up will need your support, even if you don’t agree with them 100%. You won’t. I worked for President Obama and I didn’t agree with him 100%. It’s an unfair thing to think you deserve to unequivocally, fully love your candidate. We were all spoiled by Obama but remember: Even he wasn’t perfect. Support the candidate, do not make stupid memes about their flaws. Do not equate them as the same with Donald Trump because they work with banks or with Wall Street. Be smart. When it comes time, sign up to knock on doors and make calls — donate too, if you can. This makes a huge difference. Commit to it. That’s how we win.

  1. Looking to do your part? One way to get involved is to read the Indivisible Guide, which is written by former congressional staffers and is loaded with best practices for making Congress listen. Or follow this publication, connect with us on Twitter, and join us on Facebook.