Hit reply with “yes”

One of the projects I work on is CensusAtSchool New Zealand; an educational project funded by government agencies and The University of Auckland. Every two years, we run a new census: teachers register their classes to take part in an anonymous online survey. The data is then used in the classroom to teach statistics. By using real, relevant and interesting data and being involved with the entire process of collecting and analysing data, students get excited by and understand the importance of statistics and being “data detectives”.

Every two years, we email out all the teachers who participated the last time, along with principals and school offices across New Zealand and encourage them to sign up again for the next CensusAtSchool survey. Each time we email out information about the survey, a number will sign up by completing a short form with the minimal information we need.

Earlier this year, after numerous emails asking for teachers to go to our webpage and complete the form, I experimented with another approach for encouraging sign ups. I filtered our mailing list by the teachers who were not yet registered for CensusAtSchool 2015, and had a school email address (so I could figure out the name, email and school needed for the form). This email went out to 2,648 teachers (37 bounced):

Subject: Reply “YES” to register for CensusAtSchool 2015


I know there’s lots of demands on your time right now, so have made it super easy to get registered for CensusAtSchool 2015.

To register, reply to this email with the subject line: “YES”.

That’s it.

Thank you!
Rachel Cunliffe, CensusAtSchool Co-Director

CensusAtSchool starts March 16!

I was absolutely astounded at the number of immediate replies which came flooding in. I had 426 email replies – with half of those the same day I sent the email. This meant that 16% of the list who had been asked multiple times to sign up and hadn’t already, did so as a result of this campaign.

It was a great reminder to me that we can think we’re making things easy for people to do (“it’s an easy form to fill out! only takes a moment!”) but we can always strive to make it easier. Yes, it meant a bit of work for me to add in their details to the list, but on a project where participation helps ensure the future of the project, it was worth the extra effort.

I wondered why so many teachers liked registering this way. Was it because they were on their phone and didn’t want to fill in a form? Was it because they didn’t need to open another app or browser? Was it because replying to an email is something teachers do many times a day that it felt effortless? Was it because they could feel they’d dealt with an email quickly, especially for those who like to clear their inbox?

I love experimenting and checking out if the data supports a new approach.

Whatever the reasoning, maybe this “hit reply with ‘yes'” approach will help get more people across the subscribe line and onto your lists too!

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