In spite of 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 single local political campaign. True, it’s hard to imagine a successful congressional, senatorial, statewide or presidential campaign without a great website, social media plan and online grassroots coordinator. But smaller campaigns, such as city council and school board races, don’t always need a website for their respective candidate to win on election night.
Still, if you can afford it and if it’s done correctly, a political 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 concentrate too much energy on designing a website unless you intend to make it a professional looking and fully integrated part of your campaign.
By “fully integrated,” I mean that your political campaign website should be something that you integrate into all other facets of your campaign. If your web page is professional and effective, you should make sure to mention it in your campaign literature, newspaper ads, media interviews and when you meet voters personally. If done correctly, a website can be a terrific “follow-up hit” for voters who want to learn more about you and your campaign.
Here’s where many local political candidates fail with their campaign website: they make it nothing more than a static page, and don’t capitalize on potential voter interaction that could lead to more contacts, more volunteers and more donations. Your campaign website shouldn’t just be a bland listing of your qualifications, your political philosophies and a few pictures. Instead, it should be a way for you to learn more about the people visiting your site, as well.
Don’t think that you have to spend thousands of dollars or hire a team of web designers in order for your campaign to have a professional web presence. In addition to very affordable independent web designers who can build a campaign website for a fraction of the cost of larger companies, there are also other free website design options that you can use yourself to create a decent-looking site from your own home or campaign headquarters.
My free website platform of choice is WordPress, which we use to publish Political Campaigning Tips. It’s free (except for very minimal hosting fees), easy to use and update, and comes with thousands of pre-programmed template designs that you can choose from to make your website reflect your particular political campaign. In addition to WordPress, there are many other free website and blogging options that your campaign can take advantage of to get your info online.
But let’s get back to making your site interactive. While it’s great to include a photo page and general information about your campaign, you need to consciously design your website with features that will help you learn about your visitors, as well. In addition to a contact page, you should also include a donation page, a volunteer page, and even a short survey asking voters what issues are important to them.
Doing all of this on your website isn’t as difficult as it might sound. If you hire a web design specialist, adding a couple of extra contact pages won’t usually cost much more. And free Internet publishing platforms like WordPress also have simple plugins available that let you include features like a contact form with just a few easy clicks.
Regardless of what route you take to get your political campaign online, remember 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 website, as well, by including plenty of interactive features in your design.