Static business card. Internet yard sign. Policy and biography word salad. These are descriptions that Ryan Rodgers didn’t want applied to Glenn Youngkin’s online presence last year.
Rodgers and his digital team at The Strategy Group Co. joined the now-Virginia governor’s camp this time last year, roughly a month out from the June primary.
“A lot of times you kind of have the website as a total afterthought,” the TSGC president told C&E. “I’m not going to say the consultants and leading strategists don’t really care, but it’s not at the forefront. With this campaign, it was … The creative braintrust was really the entire campaign itself, which was nice because it eliminated silos.”
That collaborative dynamic helped create a compelling campaign website, and a Reed-award winning standalone site that served as a vote-by-mail (VBM) resource for the ’21 gubernatorial.
“What we wanted people to see was that Glenn was an approachable individual, and play into the same branding that the TV ads did,” Rodgers said.
On a daily basis, the campaign and TSGC, its digital agency, were updating the banner and the hero image with on-the-ground shots from the press secretary, a professional photographer or videos from POOLHOUSE, the campaign’s media consultant.
Rodgers recalled: “We just had a really nice system where we could pull all of the content from and switch out images.”
They also tracked users’ engagement using tools like a heat map. Were photos of Youngkin at a diner doing better than basketball action shots?
“But we didn’t get too lost in the data, or making it too heavy on text and information and overloading a user when they go to the site,” he said. “Sometimes, there’s a tendency to put too much information at once, as opposed to figuring out what type of action do we want this individual to take?”
Rodgers and his team also designed the site, using Webflow, with the idea that it could be user-friendly enough for campaign staff without a coding background: ”The campaign was able to go and make a pretty good amount of changes themselves.”
Ultimately, that meant more refreshes to the site and its content, ensuring that it served as a “living, breathing resource.”
And when it came to the VBM website, the campaign made another strategic creative decision. It processed the users’ entries itself before passing that data along to the state party. Standard practice has often been to direct voters to a state party-maintained sign up for VBM. “We actually owned and collected that first-party data ourselves,” which helped with GOTV, said Rodgers.