Jonathan Karush often gets asked by his clients how he can give them a web presence like Barack Obama’s. “I sort of scratch my head a little bit,” Karush says, “and say frankly I can’t.” Obama, he says, was a generational candidate who even without his great online campaign team would’ve broken all kinds of Internet records.
Still, he says, lower profile candidates with less money will still benefit from a careful online strategy. Karush, president and founder of Liberty Concepts, Inc., appeared today on the “New Media, New Cycle” panel at the Art of Political Campaigning, sponsored by Campaigns & Elections’ Politics magazine.
Too many candidates try to get their new media campaign done with as little money as possible. Success, Karush says, requires devoting some resources to build a solid campaign website. He cited studies showing donors feel more secure providing their credit card numbers to well-designed websites.
But make sure your website is built by a knowledgeable team. “Campaign websites are worse than four years ago,” said Mindy Finn, another panelist. Finn is a partner at Engage and a well-known Republican new media strategist. More and more campaigns, she said, are hiring designers just out of college who know how to make the site pretty, but don’t understand the underlying functionality that a campaign requires.
She called the Internet “the great equalizer.” Free or cheap resources like Facebook and Ning, a customizable social networking platform, are useable no matter how much money you raise. And Google Ads offers great customization for a low price; you can place ads within a specific geographic region—or even only during a certain time period of the day. Quick statistical feedback will help you determine what messaging works and what doesn’t.
John Rowley, president of Fletcher Rowley Riddle, Inc. pointed to other Google products that also won’t break the bank. Google Apps, which provide web-based spreadsheet and word processing technology for free, allow teams to collaborate and share documents. Microsoft now offers their own versions of these services.
Still, Rowley said, you need to be careful about your new media presence and ensure you’re not just buying into the hype. “You’ve got to think about what is really true,” he said.