Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Using your site to reach voters who are more interested in issues than candidates

I know I'm not going to burst any bubbles when I say not all Americans care about who's running for what; voter turnout stats make that clear.

But if you use your web site well--filling it with detailed information and updating it frequently so it shows up high in search results--people who are searching for information about renewable energy in California (for example) will find your site when they search. Just ask Jerry McNerney, who used the web exceptionally well and upset a seven-term incumbent in California's 11th CD.

In fact, nearly half of the people who find Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff's blog find it by searching for topics like energy independence, Colorado schools, and health care concerns. That means his blog not only educates and informs people who come by specifically to see what the Speaker is up to, but it also lets people who are interested in specific issues know that he's on the job and getting things done.

Among the many beauties of the web is the fact that you've got virtually unlimited space; you don't have to choose whether to include detailed policy papers, you just need to think carefully about organization and packaging.

Details shouldn't drown out your top-line messages, they should illustrate it. And sound bites should not stand alone; they should be a nicely packaged entry point to richer information.

--Louella Pizzuti

Choose your web site's Editor in Chief with care

If we're to judge based on their use of the web, most politicians learned the wrong lesson from the Dean campaign's use of the web. Just like it's not the reply envelope in your fundraising letter that nets a donation, it was not the donate button that made people donate to Dean on his web site.

A Dean staffer told me the issues pages got more hits than any other part of Dean's web site. I'm not surprised, but I'm guessing candidates with info-light web sites would be.

Your web site is a publication--even if you're only using it as a virtual campaign brochure. (Of course, if your site is nothing more than an electronic brochure, it's not a particularly good publication, but it's a publication just the same.)

Your site's Editor in Chief can mean the difference between a static, stale site that discusses the past as if it's in the future and a lively, informative, inspirational site that collects and packages the great things you've done, the best quips and quotes from stump speeches and supporters, and transforms inquisitive researchers into vocal supporters.

Choose wisely.

--Louella Pizzuti