We do a number of political campaign sites every election cycle and have done so for years, from Congressional down to local races in a variety of states. I’ve learned a thing or two about effective campaign sites over the years.
There are a few characteristics that distinguish a campaign website from most other sites:
- They are always temporary, the longest time a campaign site is live is usually less than a year and that only if the site gets set up early and the candidate makes it past the primary. Even if the candidate is using his usual web site (assuming he has one), campaign content is considerably different from “normal” content, such that much is removed as soon as the candidate loses a primary or wins or loses a general election. Negative content about opponents is almost always quickly removed, as is the usual campaign focused material.
- Most campaigns have small budgets, especially for web sites. The bulk of funds spent on campaigns is still radio and television ad production and airing. Unless we are talking a presidential election, campaigns are local, at the most involving one state. It is essential for all campaigns to have a web site and engage in social networking activities, but not a lot is spent on them. Many do a terrible job with social networking. Twitter, in particular, seems to be a very difficult concept for campaign staff to understand and manage. One thing we do a great deal of is advising campaigns on using Facebook, Twitter and other social networking tools. In some cases, we even manage these for the campaign, including email.
- The main purpose of a campaign website is fundraising and it is essential to take online donations. The funds raised usually go to the radio and TV ads.
With very few exceptions, we almost always use WordPress for campaign web sites. It meets all the needs and we can offer a very competitive price compared to a TYPO3 site. This is just a matter of selecting the right tool for the job. Campaign sites are not very complicated and all need common features.
The next blog post will discuss the features every campaign site requires.