Emails + Case Study

Case Study: Chris Roth for CA

In 2019, I served as campaign manager for Chris Roth, a candidate for California Assembly. I worked to stake out positions, draw differences between Chris and other candidates, and raise campaign funds.

Here’s the story of how I wrote the
most successful fundraising email of our campaign.

“Why are you running for state assembly?”

The candidate and I were in the back of a restaurant, the only customers at 11:30 AM. I was tapping a pencil on a legal pad labeled ‘1st fundraising email’.

“You’ve known me for five months. You write the speeches, shouldn’t you know?”

I asked him again, and the answer was crap. To make a difference or something, something applicable to anyone running for anything ever.

“Why are you running for state assembly?”

“OK, Because I used to work at SpaceX. I’m a rocket scientist.”

I asked if that would impress Shania Twain. Being cool, he responded: “So I got the brain but have I got the touch?”

I wrote down “It does take a rocket scientist.” (This ended up being a great slogan for the merch, but we weren’t gonna get donations by bragging.)

Good writing requires knowledge, so I asked again. Why are you running for state assembly?”

“My dog.”

A restaurant.

I get to my computer and do some pre-writing, a judgment-free stream of consciousness.

Good first drafts are extremely intuitive, like conversational wit. Knowing if you have it or not is immediately clear, and after a few sentences trying the dog angle, I didn’t.

Chris’s pet Bacchus was not technically ‘his’; Chris was raising him as a seeing-eye dog. In every picture Bacchus had a vest on, which required a wordy explanation, like the one you’re skimming now.

I tried a funny draft, not thinking I would get very far, and I was right. I had an OK title (They did start the fire), but that’s a D minus. It was time to do more research.

I pulled up some articles: the total estimated deaths from wildfires that year were eighty-eight. Fires had completely destroyed the town of Greenville, CA. So funny was off the table. I checked the comment sections, and the readers felt the way I did: ‘This is outrageous’. I looked at my goals and realized I wanted to emphasize both ‘state government’ and the scandal. Luckily my third sentence was the best. My notes look like this:

  • Bad title
  • Adequate title
  • Why is Sacramento bailing out arsonists?
Artistic license used to conceptualize "successful email".

The email came out around four. That’s when people are clicking around on their computers before going home. The open rate goes up… And money comes in… the rate goes up…

And, this is rare in my political experience, but people start replying. How can we volunteer? Chris and I brainstorm the functions that we need done immediately (there are always too many things to do on the campaign), and I start fielding emails.

Our final open rate was 30%.
The industry average is 3%.

So why did it work?

Polemics often work. Americans are riled up and they want proof that something bad happened for a clear reason.

But the email worked because I kept asking Chris things, long after he thought he gave a good enough answer.

His desire to get elected didn’t automatically attract voters. Who cares, right? Everyone on the ballot wants to win.

The lesson: your brand message is at the intersection of what you care about, what your audience cares about, and what you can deliver.

You can’t stop digging until all three pieces connect.

Here’s the email and picture we used:

Why is Sacramento bailing out arsonists?

Last year, 88 people died and a town was destroyed by a preventable wildfire. Assemblymember [REDACTED] denounced the perpetrators, continuing his bold stance of protecting the Golden State.

Just kidding. His pals, Pacific Gas and Electric, are being sued for causing the fire. They’re flouting California’s bankruptcy laws to leave taxpayers on the hook.

Sacramento, CA - Wildfires

Send me to Sacramento, and I’ll stop them from getting another bailout.

The public-private model leaves investors with the profits and us with the ashes. We won’t let them burn another town off the map.

My name is Chris Roth, and I’ve seen firsthand the devastation autopilot Democrats cause. You know it’s time for a change. That means a new candidate, one who won’t take corporate payouts.

We’re a young campaign. We’ve all volunteered, marched, organized, and worked in our communities. We fight hard, and we fight well.

We represent the people. We don’t have trust funds or capitol lobbyists to fall back on. Your money goes far here: paying our designers, feeding our volunteers, and working on translation materials so we can better represent our neighbors.

So, please:


For an environmental policy that says climate disaster is unacceptable.


For breathable air and drinkable water.


To end greed-inspired wildfires

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, RAA:

Immediately after taking on an email writing role, the Covid pandemic hit. My job was to combine healthcare messaging with fundraising for the RAA, which was on the ballot that fall. The goal was approachable copy, daily, that was punchy and readable by people who are rightfully panicking.

I increased open rate by 8% on the
200,000-person list within two weeks.


I revitalized their Black Friday marketing campaign…

…and increased the email open rate by 35%. That, with my team’s AdWords campaign, raised Q4 sales 30% YOY.

Click here full email funnel.

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