Building a campaign website is one of the first things you can do to establish credibility as a serious candidate. In this age of electronic communication, candidates without websites aren’t taken seriously. Sort of like the business card of year’s past. However, what you put on your website can help you campaign build momentum or provide tools to your opposition to defeat you.
Campaign Logo & Website Hosting
There are dozens of graphic designers and political website hosts that will happily charge you big money to develop your campaign logo and website. Don’t Pay It! The return on this investment just isn’t worth it and, frankly, you don’t have money to waste on them. Your number one goal is to get money in the bank and keep it there until the end when voters are paying attention to your campaign.
I recommend using a service like Fiverr to develop your logo. For just a few bucks, you can work with graphic designers from all over the world. The upside here is low cost. The downside is that most graphic designers are not political experts. If you want to work with a political campaign logo graphic artist, message me and I can get you the deal that my clients get.
I have used dozens of political website hosts over the years. Hands down, I like Blue Host the best. It’s easy to use and your site can be up in minutes, there are zero massive up front costs, the customer service is fantastic, they give you a free domain, and, because I have a partnership with them, you can get started for as little as $3.95/month!
What A Political Campaign Website Isn’t
Campaign websites do not earn you votes. As much as it saddens me to say it, the average voter will not take the time to visit your site, read your position papers, pour over your endorsements, and formulate an opinion. Even in the most educated communities, voters just don’t make the time for this – at least not in enough mass to sway your election.
Your opposition will religiously scour your website, daily, looking for anything that can be used against you with endorsement organizations or a pull quote for a future mailer against you.
As a general rule, keep your website high level and general. Do not detail out every specific component of every solution – no one will read it. Your opportunity to get into detail is on the door step, in one-on-one meetings, and when you speak with groups of people.
What A Political Campaign Website Is
First and foremost, a campaign website is a tool to communicate with, and provide tools to, your supporters. Whether it be your family and friends wanting to help spread the word or an outside organization wishing to support you with an Independent Expenditure, below are the key components to an effective political campaign website.
Much like we talked about in the Anatomy of a Campaign Stump Speech, you should provide the basics about who you, why you are running for office, and how you are qualified for the job.
Your goal is to make it easy for a supporter to contribute to your campaign. The easiest way to do this is with an online donation tool. There are a number of solutions available to you. PayPal is always worth considering as their transaction fees are low. However, political campaigns are not their expertise and PayPal may not be the easiest tool available to capture the donor information that you need for compliance purposes.
We really like Anedot because political campaigns are their expertise, it’s easy to use, and there are no set-up or monthly fees. Anedot has responsive customer service, can easily be integrated into your website, and enables you collect donations in person and even recurring donations. (No, we are not paid by Anedot for this recommendation!).
Your goal is to build a broad and diverse coalition of supporters. That should be reflected in your endorsement list. I recommend fist approaching anyone you know with a title. That title can be as an elected official, appointed official, community group leader, nonprofit board member, or- well really anyone with a title.
Make sure you get endorsements confirmed in writing.
The easiest way to confirm that you can use someone’s name publicly as a supporter is with email or text. Simply send them a note – confirming their verbal agreement to allow you to use their name publicly as a supporter – and ask they to respond.
I learned this lesson the hard way. Many years ago, when I was first running for City Council, I asked a community leader if he would support my candidacy. He said yes and I immediately put his name on my website. Of course, my opposition (the incumbent at the time) was constantly looking over my endorsement list and contacting those folks to put pressure on them. The community leader who had said he would support me then called to say that he never told me I could publicly use his name. Trust me, I never did that again. Always get that endorsement in writing!
Two Key Website Elements for Endorsements
- Whenever you place someone’s name on your website you should also list their affiliation (i.e. PTA President, City Mayor, Specific HOA President, etc.) and put an asterisk* next to their title. Then, at the bottom of the page, make sure you put the following disclaimer: “*Titles are for identification purposes only.” This the industry standard mechanism for providing context to your endorsers without placing the affiliate organization in jeopardy. This is how you make it clear that the organization is not endorsing you – the person is. The title is just to provide clarity and identification of the person.
- Make sure you have an easy contact button or link on this page so that people can submit their name to be listed on your website as an endorser.
Finally, even list people who do not have titles. Ensure all your friends, family, dentist, doctor, and others are listed. You want as many people on your website as possible. Remember, your supporters and your opposition are looking at this list. You want your supporters to be pumped and your opposition to feel like they are being out worked!
High Resolution Photos
Campaign photos speak louder than words. This is not the place to be cheap. I recommend hiring a professional photographer that understands how to use lighting. At the minimum, get a headshot, full body photo (like this one), and photos of you interacting with people. Depending on your campaign, this may be kids, seniors, concerned residents, or business owners. If you want a few minutes with me to get my advise on types of photos, contact me anytime.
Make sure the photos are high resolution(at least 300 dpi) and easily downloadable. You may even just like to a Flickr account. Remember, if others want to use your photos, they are going to go to your website to get them. By placing high quality photos on your website, you can control the images others use.
Pull Quotes & Key Issues
Like we said before, keep it simple and high level. However, I recommend you have 3 to 5 people with titles provide validation quotes for you. They should say something about your dedication, experience, and passion for the job/community.
Also, be sure and include your key, high level, campaign issues that you developed when writing your stump speech.
As always, if you want to get into more detail and ask me specific questions, feel free to go here and contact me directly – anytime!