- Get a domain name. To do this, I recommend www.GoDaddy.com, but there are plenty of other domain providers that can be used. Here are points to keep in mind:
- Try to get your name:
- Last name is the best, but usually un-obtainable.
- Getting First and Last Name in conjunction with Last Name is great.
- Make sure to get Last Name and Year. Example: www.MarkHenley.com and www.Henley2010.com. www.MARKHENLEY2010.COM would be another option.
If all of the options above are gone, then sometimes a phrase or meaningful statement for your campaign will work. You can then purchase a less desirable root domain (root or top level domains are the last few letters after the right most dot. For example, .com, .net, .us, etc.). Your campaign phrase can then be pointed at the less known root. So www.VoteProgressive2010.comcan point to www.MarkHenley.us and my campaign signs will read www.VoteProgressive2010.com. Before you use a catchy phrase, you should ask neighbors, friends and especially acquaintances: Can you remember this? What does it remind you of? Does this make you feel positive or negative about my campaign? And so on.
- You should consider purchasing .net and .org for your chosen domains as well as the .com root domain. This prevents an opponent from utilizing your own site name in an attack. Any extraneous domain names should be forwarded to the main site. I am opposed to using this tactic and recommend against doing this to others. It seems to me that all candidates should be able to present their case. Using someone's own name against them is a cheap shot and unethical.
- Make sure the domain name is not too long. If your site's name is AlexandriaKatherineMitchell-McDonald.com or PleaseSupportArizonaTeachersInThisElection.com, it is too difficult to manage. Keep the domain name as short as possible. Also, don't use weird or uncommon spellings like 'Phrank' or 'Paulz' instead of 'Frank' or 'Pauls'. If your name is difficult to pronounce or can be mixed up, consider purchasing multiple spellings.
- Consider purchasing the domain name yourself instead of letting the web designer do it for you. Or have the designer purchase it on a separate account. If you already own other domain names, why not purchase the campaign domain on a new account? This way you can give the web designer the login info without jeopardizing your other accounts. (Note: There can be situations where purchasing the site yourself is not a good idea. Consider the person you're working with. Then make the decision.)
- Make sure you get a domain name before you put your campaign material together! This might seem obvious, yet I see the disconnect happen. Your campaign material really must have your website listed. Also, make sure you purchase the name immediately once the decision has been made. Do NOT wait.
- Get someone who will build the site and someone else who can do data entry.
- Don't believe the same person will do both. Yes, I build sites for political candidates that I support. And yes, I will do updates and changes. But I'm not keen on daily data entry or daily updates. It is up to the candidate and the campaign manager to deliver the site content. It is up to the web designer to implement the site using the content. If a content management system is implemented (as it should be), then a data entry person can update the site with daily content, calendar items, campaign events and simple updates using a web browser.
- Often updating the site is not a problem if the site is well planned in advance. Most sites go through 2 phases: The primary phase and the general election phase. For most candidates, there are few if any updates that need to be done once the site is set for each phase.
- In some cases you might find a volunteer who can use website building tools to put a site together. If you do this, make sure the site is thoroughly reviewed. Often "do it yourself" sites look amateurish and can make a candidate seem unprofessional.
- Get a brand and a message. The website should generally look like your campaign material. Ensure the site embraces your slogans and your sales pitch. The website is often the lasting first impression and the real “public” face of the campaign available 24/7. Humans are a visual species, so the more images that pertain to your message the better. The viewer will see the image before reading the text.
- Make sure that logos, messages, accents, colors and general appearance between campaign material and the website match. When people enter your site, they need a sense of continuity. Keeping a consistent message, theme and look is critical in your marketing. Don't confuse your visitors. Color is very important for setting the tone and mood of a website.
- Think about a logo. As a candidate, you are running in a herd of other
candidates. It is beneficial to have a unique identifier. There are many sites
that charge from $20 to $100 to help you build a professional logo. It might be
worth the cost. Google 'Make Custom Logo' and you will find plenty of sellers.
- Put together an electronic information packet for the web designer. As a candidate, you should have ideas and essays created that reflect the planks of your campaign. You will need the following:
- A bulleted - 3 to 6 point, resume style list of campaign ideas or comments so the reader knows who you are and why they should love you. (There are political studies that point to the “power of threes” – it is best to have just three main campaign points. More than three, and people won’t read, comprehend, or remember them. Less than three, and it looks like a flimsy platform.)
- A description of yourself for an 'About' page. This should be broken into 2 parts -- a synopsis and a detail section. Synopsis: 200 words or less. Detail: 500 words (2 pages) up to 1000 words (4 pages). For national candidates, this will be more detailed.
- An issues page. This must be bulleted. Each bullet should have a general statement and be followed up with a comment. For state and local candidates, try for local issues. Traffic? Corruption? Parks? Schools? Budgets? Relevant issues are useful.
- A list of possible site marketing photos and concepts. Go to www.iStockPhoto.com and identify 5 to 10 stock photos that can be purchased and utilized in your site.
- Candidate Pictures. You must have pictures of yourself shaking hands with people, kissing babies, working with the school principle, working in a food kitchen, meeting with local leaders, etc. The web designer should have this up front.
- At least one or more professional pictures, and at least one photo of yourself in business attire with a professional expression.
- Media. Have a colleague discuss issues on video. Have someone edit the content so it looks professional. This can be placed on YouTube and embedded into the website.
- Any press releases that are applicable. For national candidates, you should have a press section.
- Information about your district such as maps, district boundaries and voter registration information.
- Contact and donation information.
- Schedule a meeting between you the candidate, your campaign manager and web
designer, as well as other pertinent players. This should probably happen in 3
sessions or more: 1) An initial meeting to organize time lines and ideas. 2) A
meeting once the web designer has created a concept. This might be a storyboard,
or might be picture elements to be reviewed or a 'draft' website. Make sure that
draft websites are kept off line until they are approved. 3) A follow-up meeting
once the site is launched.
- Some other points to keep in mind...
- Ensure you have a form on your site that allows people to help with your campaign. You should include things like knocking on doors, making calls, having a house party, doing data entry, putting up a yard sign, etc.
- Do keep the site simple. If you are running as a local candidate, focus on your bullet points.
- Do filter your site for unnecessary or pointed information. People visiting your site more than 30 days before an election (primary or general) fall into two camps: 1) Those who wish to damage your campaign and build a case against you, 2) Those looking to join your campaign. As material is placed onto the site, keep this in mind. The site plays a small part in earning votes until voters are forced to look for information. Therefore ensure you place nothing on the site that can harm your campaign.
- If you are running a national campaign, you will want a richer environment for people to review. Make sure video and commercials are included on the site. Your planks should be listed in two ways: A simple bulleted version and a detailed, in depth version.
- Do NOT put elements on the site that will not be maintained. This is often a
problem. A candidate may want a bulletin board, only to find that it remains
blank or gets filled with spam. And so on...
Do not allow comments if you are blogging. Or, if you are going to allow comments, review each one before posting.
Do not put a calendar on the site unless it will be maintained.
Do not place a 'List of Events' on the site unless it will have events!
Do not put a forum on the site unless it is restricted and has valid content.
Do NOT put music or someone 'talking to you' when you enter the site.
- Do not place personal photos on the site, like a photo album, unless it somehow ties to your message. Remember this rule: If something is a distraction (a baby photo of you on a blanket), it will not help visitors see your point of view (fighting crime in the local community).
- I recommend against Flash sites in most cases. It narrows your audience, restricts search engines and detracts from your message.
- Do NOT put photos and media on your site unless they are sized and embedded correctly. If you don't understand this point, then don't put photos and media on the site. Large photos and some media drag down the performance and can even lockup a user's computer.
- For large articles, ensure you have a synopsis so people can get the point without having to wade through information.
- Keep the site SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE, SIMPLE. This is a political site and thus a marketing campaign. Your visitors must have concise, focused information. Assume they have zero attention span. You have about 5 seconds to grab your reader's attention. If you have complex menus that drop down and hide information in a sea of complexity, your site will reflect poorly on you as a candidate. I hear this complaint more than any other. You gain nothing by making the site complex. It does not look 'cool' and it annoys users. The last thing you want from a visitor is ANNOYED = YOUR WEBSITE = YOU.
- My Final Word. Be who you are...
Place your political affiliation on your site and signs and then target your message. Failing to do this ensures your obscurity and de-energizes your base. By not displaying your affiliation you give voters in your camp no reason to waste their time voting ("Why should I vote for a candidate who is at best is generic and at worst, stealth?" -- Answer? No reason.)
Here is a good rule of thumb:
Your Base 20% to 40% of voters. These will ALWAYS vote for you no matter what you say. They vote a straight ticket. Their Base 20% to 40% of voters. These will NEVER for you no matter what you say. They vote a straight ticket. Not Your Base and Not Their Base 20% to 40% of voters. These will vote for the person who they believe is the best candidate. They seldom vote a straight ticket.
Nothing is more annoying than pulling up a website and then having to guess as to whether the person is a Democrat or Republican. It makes the candidate look weak.
Not being who you are makes no political sense. So instead of remaining stealth, consider re-framing your message. If you are in a conservative area, why not focus on common ground of which both conservatives and progressives agree? For example being fiscally RESPONSIBLE (not conservative), reducing wasteful spending and balancing the budget. Don't just be a generic candidate. Isn't it your responsibility to answer to your constituents? You're supposed to care about what they care about. So focus on those ideas instead of blurring your political affiliation.