There is no cookie-cutter approach to a campaign’s web strategy, because every candidate is different. We aim to market a candidate’s strengths and use those strengths to bolster his or her web presence. Such was the case of Tom Campbell.
Being a law professor and not a conventional politician, Campbell fleshed out his position on issues more than his opponents. Every stance was outlined in a thoroughly researched report that he compiled himself; he wanted to present detailed policy ideas on how to balance the budget, protect our national security, and reduce government spending. Being the substantive candidate set Campbell apart, and his website and online strategy had to reflect that.
We didn’t build a website off the bat. Instead, we posted a splash page with a blog:
The blog was Campbell’s classroom, of sorts — Campbell would share his thoughts on issues facing Californians and voters would respond with their reactions to his ideas or ideas of their own. Campbell read all the comments and responded. In fact, he incorporated many readers’ ideas into his policy platform.
What resulted was an open dialogue with the people of California. We tried to market how much attention he paid to the issues and to the voters’ opinions. Journalist Joe Mathews of Fox & Hounds Daily said of the three Republican gubernatorial candidates, only Campbell was able to point to where reader contributions had trickled into his platform.
Once the main campaign website was created, readers were allowed to comment on the Issues section and the candidate’s blog still played a prominent role. We also sought to coordinate our offline initiatives with our online efforts in order to solicit digital contact data. It was important to show Campbell’s engagement with voters, both on the web and offline.
The site’s design was equally important:
Everything had to coordinate — the main website, the blog, Campbell Connect (used for self-organization), social media presence, etc. The content strategy was to show both the natural beauty of California (through photographs) and to showcase ways in which the voter could interact with the website and the candidate himself.
In the end, we played to Campbell’s strengths. At the end of his senatorial run, he raised $1.7 million online (over half the money he raised overall), he reached close to 200,000 Twitter followers, and he posted over 400 comments on his blog. The campaign website was lauded as one of the top ten GOP candidates sites in the country by eStampede.com. The professor schooled the competition in how to campaign with the web.