Writing an initial candidate email

Your initial email to candidates is your chance to introduce them to your guide, pitch why they should spend time thoughtfully filling it out, and set expectations for what’s involved.

Feel free to skip straight to the example email below.

We recommend BCC’ing all the candidates in a given race at once, although you can certainly use mail merge or another means of contacting them. The key is that they somehow get the main survey link.

Background on your election guide

Who you are and the purpose of your election guide is a good place to start.

Your organization

If some candidates might not be familiar with your organization, be sure to include a brief sentence or phrase to help them get their bearings.

This doesn’t need to be long, and if you’re well known in your market and think candidates will already be familiar with you it can be excluded (they can always look you up for more information).

If you’re collaborating with other news organizations, this is good to get up front since it can help convince candidates to participate. It highlights both the potential audience they could reach and number of election guides they’ll be covering with one set of responses.

The election guide

The first or second thing in your email should be a sentence about why you’re contacting them. Something along the lines of: “We are creating a comprehensive election guide to help voters make informed decisions by comparing candidates’ responses on the issues.”

Call to action

Make sure to state relatively early what you want candidates to do (fill out the survey) so they have context for the rest of the message.

Set expectations

Include key information about the guide so they know what to expect.

  • Due date
  • Survey length: Number of questions and/or the approximate time you think it should take to fill out
  • Missing responses: How you will treat missing responses (e.g., a note saying no response was received, links and/or reporting to try and fill in the gaps, etc.)
  • Late submissions: Whether you will accept late submissions and a final deadline beyond which no submissions will be accepted, if applicable
  • Editing policy: If and how you plan to edit responses (e.g., length, clarity, etc.), especially any relevant details you want them to know about how you will deal with fact checking (e.g., removing inaccurate information, inserting editorial notes, etc.). You do not necessarily need to go into great detail here, but setting expectations up front can be helpful if you’re concerned candidates may complain after the fact.

Include the link from the relevant race in ElectUp. It can also be helpful to let them know that it will prompt them for their official candidate email to get their unique survey link.


Subject: Candidate survey for municipal elections

Dear candidates,

WTRN, our state’s largest public media organization, is compiling a comprehensive election guide we will feature prominently in our election coverage to help our audience make informed voting decisions.

Please fill out the brief survey below to have your responses included in our election guide. The survey includes a place to upload a photo of yourself and seven questions about your position on key topics in this election, and should take about 20 minutes to complete.

The survey is due by April 10. If we have not received your responses by then, we will note that no response was received in the election guide. We will attempt to include late responses if possible if they are submitted with enough time to adequately edit them before the election. We may edit responses for length, clarity, and with fact checking, just as we would do for an interview in a news story.

Please visit the following link to begin. You will be asked to enter your official candidate email, where you will receive a unique link for your survey.

[Link from ElectUp "candidate survey" page]