I am often asked by candidates about the need for a website. Many of them voice concerns about spending the money on it because they question its value. Often candidates feel like a Facebook page is all they need to promote and get their message out. In reality, the answer depends on the candidate’s communication strategy and their long-term goals.
One often overlooked principle of effective campaigns is putting a communications plan together. An effective communication plan identifies a clear and consistent message for all communication channels. This message becomes part of the candidates brand identity.
As part of the communication strategy, candidates need to consider which channels they would like to use and how they will use them. Developing a communication strategy begins with reviewing your budget and allocating the money between the various areas of your campaign.
In allocating your budget for media, it typically breaks down into three areas: Traditional (print, TV & Radio), Digital (website, social media and advertising) and Signage. Successful campaigns realize the need to have some type of presence in all three areas. However, the trick lies in what percentage of the budget goes to each area.
A recent line of thinking is that 25-50% of your total marketing budget should go towards digital media. That percentage may work in a national race, but smaller, down-ballot races require a different line of thinking. This is where the need for a website comes into play.
For most candidates, a simple website will meet their need. A website is a place to put all of the campaign information a voter needs to make their decision. A website gives you a platform to help get your message out and is a place to refer people to. It is the central information hub for a campaign. It is more versatile than just using a social media page.
A typical candidate website can be built between $1,000 – $2,000 dollars. At the minimum it should contain the following pages:
1. A Homepage with a brief synopsis of who the candidate is, the key issues they are running on, a contact form and a donate button. This page should have high quality, professional images on the page. Insider Tip – try to have a couple of good action shots with the candidate talking to people, either individually or in a crowd.
2. An About page with a nice photo of the candidate and their family. This is an opportunity to let the voters see a bit of your personality, so use a tone of voice reflecting who you are. Share as much or as little information as you would like. An insider tip is to make sure there are at least three photos of you doing something other than campaigning on this page.
3. An Issues page where you go into detail about the issues you are running on. A good rule of thumb is to have three main issues as your platform. Go into detail about the issue and spell out your solution to the problem.
4. A Contact page with all of the ways to reach the candidate. This page can also double as a volunteer page by adding volunteer options to the contact form.
5. A Donate page is a must for all campaigns. Most payment platforms like PayPal and Stripe have plugins that allow you to embed their form on your website to accept donations. There should be a donate button on every page, leading supporters to the donate page.