How to Create a Winning Campaign Website
By Dwight Patel
Despite what some tech-savvy web designers and Internet specialists might say, we still haven’t reached a point in our society where a website is a must-have for every local political campaign.
True, it’s hard to imagine a successful congressional, senatorial, statewide, state legislative, county wide or presidential campaign without a great website, social media plan and online grassroots coordinator. But smaller campaigns, such as the ones for city council and school board races, don’t always need a website for their respective candidates to win on election night.
However, you should keep in mind that a campaign website is a great way to raise your name identification in the community, find volunteers and raise money. A word of warning: if you’re a candidate in a smaller race, don’t spend too much time designing a website unless you intend to make it a professional looking and fully integrated part of your campaign.
If you decide to take this route, your campaign website should be connected to all facets of your campaign, and you need to have your website URL on every piece of campaign collateral. Unfortunately, even in today’s fast-paced visual environment, many candidates make the mistake of having a lackluster website like the one that Yours Truly did for the Dick Chrysler campaign in 1996, which consisted of a FLAT cyber billboard. That was fine for 1996, but today your site should not only be interactive, but also incorporate social media, videos and multiple opportunities to encourage political activism.
BTW, your campaign website should be up by now. If not, what are you waiting for? Here’s an outline of what you need to have on your website. Set up the following categories with links/buttons.
- About the Candidate
- On the Issues
- Press or Media Center
- Donation Link
- Volunteer Link
- Contact Us
- Phone Number
- Mailing Address
- Social Media Links
Congressman Peter King (R-NY) has one of the better congressional campaign websites. The information is easy to find and his phone number is right at the top, as well a simple sign-up for his campaign mailing list. Note that there is no home button, just an icon of a house for the home link. Also, his social media links are easy to find, and his phone number, email and campaign office information is prominently displayed.
Importance of Videos for your Campaign
Here’s something you should keep in mind:
If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then “a video is worth ten thousand words.” Therefore, creating video messages for your campaign site is a must.
But, don’t just do them in your den. Get out of your comfort zone by driving around and getting videos in front of recognizable locations in your district. The iPhone 8+ and X are great for taking videos.
Here are a couple of suggestions to keep in mind: When creating your video, don’t do it off the cuff unless you are Jerry Cave. Write out a script and then practice, practice, practice and practice some more. There’s nothing worse for a campaign video than someone who looks as if he or she is reading the message. *Keep eye contact with the camera.
In order to build traffic to your website, stream the videos out once or twice a month. You may also want to create a section where your supporters record a video for you.
Campaign Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
You should have a Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page ready to go, using the same naming sequence that I mentioned above. For example, if your Facebook campaign page (NOT YOUR PERSONAL PAGE) is Facebook.com/CandidateNameForMaryland, you should use the same name for your Twitter and Instagram accounts. This will make it easier for people to find you, as well as for you to tell people I am
@CandidateNameForMaryland on Twitter, FB and Instagram.
Regardless of which route you take to get your political campaign online, keep in mind that you don’t want to make your website a boring, static page of information about yourself. Take the time to listen to the voters on your site by including plenty of interactive features in your design. Social media can be a powerful way to amplify your campaign message.
I’ve listed a few of the best and worst websites below, so that you can use some of the best ones as guides on how to create the most effective messages for your campaign.
You can always reach out to me for advice on website design, content and structure. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.