In the hugely unlikely event that I ever become a government minister, I'm sure I'd find myself impressed if hundreds or thousands of people had bothered to send me an email saying I should do / not do / start / stop / change / etc "something" : vox populi, and all that. However, if I were on the receiving end of such a deluge, I think I'd ask this question: How many of the email senders had bothered to change the basic text, to make it more personal, say, or to exemplify an aspect of the issue? And as the % figures grew for those who'd done this, I think I'd begin to take more notice. It is, after all easy to send an email that someone else has written for you.
I have thought of this in the last week in the light of People & Planet's email campaign against Tim Oates (see earlier post). P&P have been encouraging us all to write to Msrs Oates and Gove in this fashion:
Don't take climate change off the curriculum
FAO: Mr Tim Oates & Rt Hon Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove
I am a [student / teacher / parent]
I am deeply disturbed to learn that you are recommending to the government that climate change no longer be taught through the national curriculum. It is absolutely crucial that young people be taught how human activity and natural processes can lead to changes in the environment and about ways in which living things and the environment need to be protected.
Without knowledge and understanding of the social, economic and environmental impacts of climate change, how can we expect young people to be ready to deal with the impacts and help find the solutions to climate change that will play such a huge role in their futures?
Climate change is widely accepted as the biggest threat facing our planet and billions of people on it. Given the government's commitment to being "the greenest government ever" it would be shameful and tragic for the UK to actively undermine the central opportunities that our young people have through the curriculum to explore the much-needed climate solutions of renewable energy, recycling and sustainable resource management.
I urge you to reconsider your dangerous recommendation,
P&P do recognise the greater power of a personalised message. In the preamble to the email text, they say:
Please adapt the suggested text and subject line below, and remember to:
- be polite
- let Tim Oates know if you are a student, teacher or parent
- tell him how important your own knowledge and understanding of climate change has been to you
But, the trouble is that P&P have so packed the email with fully-formed ideas and messages that it is quite hard to add a personal or anecdotal element. It is quite a dilemma: the more complete the message, the more likely it is that people will just send it off; the more a message is customised, the more notice is likely to be taken of it.
Next time, I wonder, might P&P decide to put more trust in their clients and draft an incomplete email that people have to amend. Fewer hits, but more impact, perhaps. Sadly, however, I cannot see this happening.