How to market like Obama or Raphael

The other day I received a note from the Director of California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (CA DTSC), Debbie Raphael. I'm sure a lot of people received this. But it felt personal, more in tone than in salutation. "Greetings" it began simply, without using my name specifically.

D. Raphael, Director, CA DTSC
Right away the email addressed something that had been said about her recently, which she felt was incorrect. Well! That's something relate-able. Most of us have felt unfairly criticized at one time or another. Immediately I felt indignation. I wanted to know what was said, and maybe help her defend herself. (This is just a human response, I don't live in California nor did I have any idea what had been said about her.) But suddenly I cared. So I read more.

What a great use of email! 

This email was so much more powerful than the usual campaign. The usual email gist is, "those industrial jerks are undermining environmental initiatives— again!" Yawn. Suddenly a CA DTSC issue felt personal, tangible. This is not an easy task. I even clicked the link to read more.


This is similar to what Obama's staff famously did with his election campaign. Made it personal. People want to know how they are connected to an issue. This means they want to receive little notes that
  1. tell them what's going on and 
  2. provide a relate-able blend of facts and feelings. 
"I feel worried because the opponent is out-fundraising us and so they might win!" is a great email. It was Obama's top fundraiser trigger. The material is very relate-able, because we've all felt worried about losing when we're in some sort of competition. We naturally jump to help.

Below is Raphael's email and a link to her response to recent criticism of her tenure at CA DTSC. In my opinion her response page is a little overwrought. It doesn't live up to the email's promise and is instead cool and impersonal. It's a thorough response, and that's great, but the web page designers ought to break it up with images, or even use different pages for different sections of thought. (But it does have all the information, so check it out if curious, link at bottom.)

But her email is such a good engagement tool that I've reprinted it below. I hope it inspires higher-quality campaigns to promote environmental issues and awareness.

Email from Debbie Raphael, Director, CA DTSC


Recently, a private advocacy group issued a report critical of DTSC. During the past several weeks, I carefully reviewed this document and found it contains many inaccuracies and misrepresentations.  However, what concerned me most about the report is that it failed to mention steps we had already taken to address many of the issues raised, and made conclusions about issues that the authors never asked us about, despite our spending many hours with them.

It's important for you, our stakeholders, to know the facts, and what steps we've been taking since I became director to address the fundamental issues facing DTSC. I hope you'll take the time to read what I've done to restore public confidence in DTSC.

Many of you have taken the time during the past two years to give me your thoughts and ideas as to where we can improve our service. Thank you for your input. I welcome ideas from all of you and look forward to taking further steps to ensure that we are doing our job to protect Californians and our environment.

You can find my response here:

Debbie Raphael
Department of Toxic Substances Control