The French presidential elections: Views from my inbox

I’ve been living in Boston for 13 years now, and became a U.S. citizen in 2010. My first vote here was Obama’s second win to the White House. But I consider myself a dual citizen, and thus take my French voting duties very seriously. To vote, and to make paperwork easier, I’m registered with the Consulate in Boston. This allows me to receive all the campaign information from candidates, from the traditional paper leaflets to the emails.

It’s striking to me how different the electoral campaigns are in the U.S. and in France. This time around France really took a hint from the American elections. In March, the government canceled electronic voting due to hacking potential. Today, TV shows here cannot stop talking about Le Pen, “Frexit”, and the nationalist/extremist discourse. I agree there’s are threats, but to be honest the Le Pens have been around and threatening for a while. I remember very clearly how shocked -and yet resolved- we all were back in 2002 when we rushed to vote for Chirac to block Jean-Marie.

It’s now past midnight in France, which means the official campaigning before the first round has ended. So far, I’ve received 24 emails from candidates (i.e. not counting those from committees like “La France Insoumise Canada” from Melenchon supporters), 7 of which made it straight to my spam folder. The top senders are Hamon and Fillon, with Macron closely in 3rd place. I did a quick text analysis and the top 5 words are: l’étranger (the foreigner), Français (French), France, vote, pays (country).

Table showing the use of emails by candidates to the French presidential elections
Emails received by French expatriates in the U.S. from candidates to the French 2017 presidential elections

Hamon’s campaign had a nice use of pulled-out quotes in bold red that you could share on social media. But they disappointed many when they sent an invitation to a live chat that ended up being a 10 minute video of him answering preselected questions (selection process unclear)… sad. Live chat means exactly that.

Macron’s team used lead forms with CTAs like “get a call back from a campaign team member to discus a specific issue”, or “talk to a campaign team member in another language than French.” He also offered a web conference with two former expats now back in France on his team.

Meanwhile, Fillon’s team had uninspired subject lines numbering their stream of emails, “Lettres aux Francais de l’Etranger #2, #3” etc.. They still managed to send the #3 letter twice. Fillon’s message also mainly focused on issues specific to French people living abroad, which is fine but a bit short-sighted as I, along with most “expats”, care about all the other issues as well.

Last, two out of 3 emails from Le Pen ended up in my spam folder (maybe a digital omen). These were very short, which is not a bad thing. But again some misuse, with one email’s subject reading “Discover my campaign video clip”, and no video or link to a clip in sight.

Now I’d love to read about what the candidates sent to my fellow “concitoyens et concitoyennes” in France. I haven’t found much on the web on this. Does this mean that, in politics, lead generation through email has lost its place to social media? Maybe. Then again, I never signed up for any emails, these were all sent to me as “top of the funnel” via the Consulates’ listings. And while these emails certainly did not convince me one way or another, they made me feel like I was part of the process, of the discussion, at least for some candidates.

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