Since President Bush shamelessly promoted his own website during his acceptance speech last week I’ve had somewhat of an obsession with his site as well as his competitor, Mr. Kerry’s site.
From the perspective of a Persuasion Architect there is alot to be fascinated with when you consider a Presidential campaign website, and I think there is also a lot to be learned as we dissect both of these sites.
So let’s put politics aside, and study JohnKerry.com and GeorgeWBush.com as sites, and see if we can learn anything about persuasion and conversion. The first advantage to doing this is that we know the obvious objective of each site(to do it’s part to help propel the candidate into the Whitehouse). Second, we can also easily infer the responsibilities each site must perform and we can contrast and compare the two and their relative effectiveness.
Take off your political hat, put on your persuasion beenie and let’s get started.
Site Objectives and Responsibilities
Before we can begin analyzing a sites effectiveness, we must ask…what are the responsibilities of this site? Not always an easy question to answer.
Because the actual ‘transaction’ or ‘conversion’ or ‘vote’ occurs offline the best a campaign site can do is act as a mechanism to reinforce and encourage support for the campaign and indirectly win votes. Because presidential elections are so polarizing it is my opinion that a presidential campaign web site cannot actually swing a vote. It is unlikely that undecided voters will attempt to make a decision by visiting a ‘biased’ candidates own website.
That being said, a good campaign website gets traffic, and we need to help those visitors achieve their goals in hopes of having some influence on the voting outcome. So lets consider how best to use a websites visitors for that means. We start by getting to know about a site’s visitors.
In this case a little common sense indicates that visitors to these campaign websites sites likely fall into three categories- candidate faithful, candidate enemies, press and political junkies. Now let’s infer their objectives as they visit a campaign site.
Candidate enemies – their objective is simple, to destroy your campaign. Why waste time trying to do anything for them on your site? Our suggestion, ignore them.
Press and Political Junkies – are here to get ‘updated’ on any news, ads, picutures, or any new positions on current issues that your campaign has to share. The press need deliverables so we suggest making it easy for them to navigate, read, and download information about your campaign.
Candidate faithful - are your most important site visitors. Your site must continue to give them reasons, and information, and excitement to not only keep their vote, but empower them to ‘campaign for you’. A campaign site’s primary objective should be to support and empower the campaign. It can do this by giving the faithful information in relation to the days news cycle, information about the candidates position, family, pics, bio, blog, etc. . The site should make it easy for candidate faithful by reinforcing their support, helping them get involved and/or give money to the candidate.
Lesson 1- A Great Website Starts with Clear Objectives and Goals
So this process applies to your company as well. You must ask what can you reasonably expect your website to accomplish? What are your visitors trying to accomplish at your site? Once you answer those questions you are best able to start talking about a sites responsibilities. We have watched many companies err by only focusing on one of these questions and ignoring the other.
Ok, now that have inferred site responsibilities we can now look and see how our little presidential candidates are doing in the above mentioned areas…but that will have to wait until next post. Feel free to comment on your assessments of each website.