Running a Political Campaign on the Web
This is a guide for how to run a grassroots campaign on the cheap.
It is for those of us who believe:
- Individuals have a God-given unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- That government's power comes directly from these individuals.
- That government's job is to protect the individual's rights and liberties.
- That when governments exceed that, they need to be changed. That means that we have to, from time to time, challenge the government on their turf in the political game.
If you're one of those types who believe you can buy votes and voters, or that money can silence your critics, or that you need lobbyists and powerful interests to keep your campaign going, this is not for you. These techniques will not work. You might as well surrender because history is always in the favor of the individual and not for statists like you.
What's the Purpose?
The point behind these technologies is:
- Inform the people about who you are and what your intentions are.
- Connect you to your supporters and coordinate with them.
- Maximize the efficiency in producing political power (votes) with your time and money and your supporter's time and money.
You need to get elected, or have your political issue carry the day, and in order to do that, you need to inform, connect, and organize.
You only have so much time, effort, and money to do so.
Informing in the Digital Age
In order to inform, you need to publish your message. That is, put it up somewhere where everyone can find it, and then get people to look at it.
Publishing information a website is EASY. You can do it yourself.
Making it look presentable is not so easy. You'll need someone who knows how to do this. Find someone, You'll only need them part time. Depending on the area, you'll probably need to pay them about $30-$90 an hour. Ask them to do it for free and then ask them to do nothing else for you. It's a campaign contribution.
My suggestion: Right now, start a site with WordPress at one of the cheap hosts out there like HostGator.com. You should get:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited storage space
- MySQL database
All for less than $5 a month.
Setup your wordpress site using Fantastico, get your web guy to make it look nice, and then start publishing information there. They should be able to show you how.
The information you'll need on your site: (These will be pages in WordPress.)
- Who you are---your biography.
- What you are running for: when the election is, what the position is, what the person does, etc... Educate your voters on our system of government.
- What your stances on the issues are.
- What your guiding principles are.
- How they can volunteer to help.
You'll publish, hopefully daily, a short post or two in the blog on your take in the news, or some issue you want to bring to light.
When writing on the web, follow these guidelines:
- PICTURES! Pictures of you, your family, the people, the American Flag, whatever.
- Organize text into short, clear paragraphs. Keep sentences short. The shorter, the better. People do not read much on the web unless it is clear and short.
- Use bullets and number lists as much as you can.
- Empty space on your site is a good idea. Use it. See Google.com for an example.
Your Domain Name (DNS)
You'll also need a domain name. This is going to be something like "electyournamehere.com". You can get a domain name for less than $10 a year at a place like MyDomain.Com. Buy it for one year. If you win, keep it registered. If you lose, think about whether you will run again.
When you're ready to go live, point your domain name to your blog.
You are going to use "Your.Name@electyournamehere.com" for your primary email. Set it up, keep it running. I strongly suggest you register an account with Google Apps and have your email configured to go there. This will make it easiest to manage.
Your RSS Feed
Your RSS Feed from your website is what you need your supporters to subscribe to. They should be using something like Google Reader to read RSS feeds. If not, then encourage them to do so, because that is how they will get the latest updates.
Blogging is about getting information out. Your supporters should blog as well, most likely on a separate site. Instead of email, BLOG. Instead of Mass Mail, BLOG. If people really want email that badly, subscribe their email to your RSS feed.
Your twitter strategy is this:
- Setup an account.
- Write several tweets throughout the day, just short thoughts or news on what you're doing or will do.
- Whenever someone friends you, you will friend them back. It's common courtesy.
- Whenever you write a new blog post, you will put a link back to it in a twit.
- You will use some hash code for your tweets.
- Your supporters will use twitter as well to coordinate their local groups and friends.
- Setup a personal account for your political persona.
- Friend all of your supporters. Never refuse to friend anyone.
- Don't put anything remotely embarrassing on your facebook account.
- Join as many groups as you can.
- Form a group for your campaign. If you can, have your tweets and blog posts go to it.
- Form a page for your campaign. Get as many people as possible to subscribe to it.
- Take videos of EVERYTHING YOU DO. Walk a neighborhood? Video. Give a speech? Video. Meet someone? Video. Interview? Video. Have a rant? Video. Challenge your opponent's record? Make an ad? Etc...
- Post all of these videos, or at least the most interesting bits.
- Form a group and have your people subscribe to it.
- All your videos go in Facebook, on your Blog, and in a Tweet, as soon as they go up.
Managing a lot of images is hard. You'll want to sign up to SmugMug to post as many pictures as you can. Make your best ones public. Hotlink from SmugMug to your blog and such.
The above is no different than what Benjamin Franklin did with his printing press. It is all about getting your message out, connecting with your supporters, and organizing your efforts. The medium has changed---for the better---so today, you can do all this with less than $50. Back in Franklin's day, a lifetime of investment was needed to buy a printing press, and printing a flier or a pamphlet was no small feat.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will personally answer your email and help you in whatever way I can.