While there may be a push to create a site at the start of a campaign, content creation is an ongoing campaign activity. This guide is for individuals writing website copy for a positive toned political campaign. Select tips are applicable to business, personal, and non-profit sites too.
Step 1: Outline Target Audiences
A well-built political campaign website informs, inspires, and mobilizes:
- Campaign contributors
- Volunteers / Staff
- Action groups
- Endorsing / opposing entities
Additional segmentations could be based on:
- Demographics: sex, age, location, employment, relationship status
- Socio-cultural dynamics: social, geographic, economic, political, historical
- Psychographics: ideas, passions, and beliefs
- Interests: habits, activities, hobbies
- Technology usage: types of devices used and frequency of use
- Media preferences: Newspaper, television, online, social media, word-of-mouth
- Voting history: registered vs. unregistered, past voting reliability, party affiliation
- Candidate / issue stance: decided vs. undecided
While it may seem strange to do so, search engines should be considered a “target audience.” Not considering how search engine algorithms index sites could impact what the electorate finds on a particular candidate.
Step 2: State Goals
At each campaign stage, what do voters care about? What does the campaign wish to achieve? A campaign website will look different on the day the candidacy is announced versus the days immediately preceding an election. In the former, a political candidate's site may be focused on publicizing the campaign's existence, whereas as election day nears, the emphasis may be persuading undecided voters and promoting turnout. Make advance preparations so that updates are not forgotten or unnecessarily rushed. Create an editorial calendar or update the campaign’s marketing plan to document obvious website additions / changes / updates.
Step 3: Define Visitor Intent, Campaign Messaging and Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
Consider Website Visitor Intent
Individuals visiting the site are there to be persuaded, informed, and / or mobilized. Offer site content that addresses the visitor’s reason(s) for visiting and where appropriate, move to action. Start by considering where the person came from:
- E-mail campaign blast
- Online advertising
- Offline media (TV ad, door hanger)
- Search engine
- Media coverage
Visitor intent could also be impacted by device, situation, and timing. On election day, undecided voters could be trying to decide who to vote for while at polling locations.
Websites are not constrained by time, as a radio spot is, or in terms of size, like a full-page newspaper ad. Instead, websites are limited by a site visitor’s attention span, device size, and / or connection speed. Write content accordingly. Begin by answering high-level questions, keeping in mind who the campaign has chosen to target:
- Who is the candidate?
- What is the campaign about?
- Where does the candidate wish to make an impact?
- When is the election?
- Why should website visitors care?
- How can website visitors show support?
After answering high-level questions, drill further...
About the Candidate
- What is the candidate passionate about?
- What are the candidate’s vision and values?
- What has the candidate achieved?
- What obstacles has the candidate faced? How did he / she persevere? What was learned?
- Who has the candidate helped? How? What was the outcome?
- What should voters know about the candidate that they don’t already know?
- Who are the people in the candidate’s inner circle?
About the Candidate's Policies
- What problems does the candidate plan on solving? How?
- What does success look like to the candidate in the short- and long-term?
Positioning Against Competitor(s)
- How is the candidate different / better than competitors?
- How do competitors position themselves in regards to the candidate?
- What “social proof” (testimonials, endorsements, op-eds, and awards) does that candidate have?
- What is it about the candidate that supporters love?
- What questions are repeatedly asked about the candidate?
- What misconceptions exist about the candidate?
- What else do voters need to know to make an educated decision at the ballot box?
- Are there any remaining concerns of the electorate that have not yet been addressed?
Articulate Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
Too many calls to action lead to inaction. Place strategic asks based on how the person came to the site (email blast, search engine, online ad), what content has been viewed, past history (if available via cookies or remarketing / retargeting), and campaign goals. Remember to test placement of CTAs, language, and appearance. Strategic, distraction-free CTAs are:
- Specific and action-oriented
- While “click here” or "submit" may be appropriate in some situations, try:
- Donate $X to Support Sending XX Mailers
- Volunteer to Phone Bank This Saturday
- Join Our Supporter Mailing List for Weekly Campaign Updates
- Inspire positive action
Step 4: Use Visitor Friendly Formatting
Site visitors scan. Maximize comprehension by structuring content for easy understanding on phones, tablets, and computers. Before creating content, think about how content should look to site visitors to minimize re-writes. Maximizing online readability:
- Prioritize for mobile devices. Google is experimenting with emphasizing mobile friendly content in search engine results. Meanwhile, some studies show that 5 hours per day are spent on mobile devices.
- Think in blocks. Logically structure content for easy comprehension by skimmers and close readers alike.
- Use headings and subheadings. Ensure headlines make sense without supporting information.
- Write short sentences and paragraphs utilizing concise wording. Consider paragraphs between 2 - 4 sentences.
- Highlight key points. Bold and / or italicize initial sentences, important statements, and transitions.
- Include bullet points and numbered lists. It can be quicker to read and understand an indented list than a comma-separate series of items.
- Offer a mix of content types. Lure readers with an assortment of sharable visual elements, including graphics, photos, infographics, pull quotes, and video.
- Utilize white space. Crowded designs can be hard to read, especially on mobile devices.
- Be consistent. As much as possible, pages should look similar to one another. Exceptions might be donation and volunteer pages that embed third-party widgets.
- Assign each page a clear purpose. Then, tie each page’s CTAs to campaigns goals.
Step 5: Create Quality Content
Don’t write for everyone. Focus on the campaign’s target groups. Focus on the visitor’s intent. Focus on the campaign’s site goals. Then, develop useful and authentic content that resonates with site visitors. Write content as if conversing with a friend. Allow each sentence to naturally flow from one to the next, drawing the reader in instinctually.
TIP: For each target voter group, fill in this sentence: I would like to _______ so I can ________.
Content writing tips:
- Mimic the candidate and supporters. Copy their wording, phrasing, and tonality.
- Be human, authentic, and knowledgeable.
- Experiment with emotive language.
- Create curiosity.
- Write for the audiences targeted by the campaign first, search engines second.
- Utilize specific and active language. Replace passive wording with powerful action verbs.
- Avoid pretentious jargon, cliches / buzzwords, circular constructions, and vulgarity.
- Craft strong headers / subheaders.
- Create interactive and engaging visual content. Add GIFs, polls, surveys, videos, countdown timers, etc. where appropriate. Expand the campaign’s social reach by incorporating "click-to-tweet," "pin this," calls to action with easily shareable content.
- Link internally. Don’t just say the candidate has a position on an issue. Link to the policy. This keep visitors on the campaign site and aids search engine indexing / positioning.
- Weave trust elements -- testimonials, endorsements, and similar social proof -- throughout site, in addition to having sections devoted to showing who is supporting the candidate.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Not every page will be read by site visitors. Repeat campaign themes and messaging without being repetitive.
- Hierarchize information and pages. Don’t have a lengthy page on something that is not important to the candidate and a skimpy page on one that is.
- Write search engine and meta snippets during the overall writing process instead of leaving it to the end (and potentially forgetting to do it.)
Standard website sections:
- Issues / Policies
- Testimonials and endorsements
- Events calendar
- Support campaign
- Get out the Vote (GOTV)
- Contact campaign
- Error page (404 page)
- Landing / interstitial pages
- Calls to action
- Entry / exit pop-ups
Step 6: Proofread and Finalize Content
Do not skip reviewing content for readability / accuracy and obtaining appropriate sign-offs before launching a campaign site. Obvious omissions and falsehoods could spark unnecessary controversy. Finalization tips:
Step 7: Review and Adjust Website Content
Content may appear amazing on the 8.5” x 11” printed page. But how does it look once part of the overall website design? During final sign-off, ask:
- Does the site pass the first impression test?
- Is key information visible and easy to find?
- Is content compelling?
- Do CTAs prompt action? Are they placed appropriately?
- Does the site support the campaign’s overall goals?
- Is the site SEO friendly?
TIP: Check site across a variety of platforms. How does it look on phones? Tablets? Desktop? Do links appear as hyperlinks? Is it possible on mobile to scroll without accidentally clicking on links? If not, content adjustments may be warranted or mobile only-content created.
Step 8: Release Site
After vetting the site, make it live. This process varies, depending on how the site was developed.
Step 9: Maintain Released Site
The work doesn’t stop once it is released. Throughout the campaign, ask: What topics are forefront of the campaign...
- For the campaign?
- For contenders?
- For electorate?
What topics on site / social media are resonating? Update site content to address these issues and support other marketing efforts by the campaign. Continue updating until an appropriate time after the election.
TIP: Once the site is launched, continue collecting content. While some parts of the site may not change throughout the campaign, others will evolve. Update throughout course of the campaign.
Bonus Action: Repurpose Content
Assign an individual or team to periodically review the site and campaign materials to identify content that could be repackaged for use elsewhere by the campaign. Aggregated pieces should continue to reflect the campaign overall, unless being used specifically to test new messaging and / or as outreach to new target audiences. Potential options for repurposing content:
Creating content for a campaign site can be simplified with a bit of planning and strategy. Content creation and maintenance is only one aspect of managing a campaign website.