I bought RazShafer.com when I was about 18 years old and that started a URL buying binge. As the internet was coming of age and I learned more about search engine optimization, it became clear to me that having the right URL is important to someone’s ability to find you online.
That idea is important enough if you’re talking about your personal website or small business, but in politics it’s critical. Hard to remember URLs that are made of slogans or hard to remember aren’t going to get the organic traffic that you want. You want someone to hear your web address and remember it so they can check you out later. Repetition is key (think about the way Ted Cruz would say his website name three times whenever he mentioned it) but the name itself should be easy.
When I started training candidates, buying the URL that corresponded to their name was always one of my first recommendations. We’re talking about online real estate so buying it before someone else sees value is important.
In a world dominated by digital content and online fundraising, traditional mail and physical checks often get forgotten. I was recently putting together a list of candidates for a donor who wanted to know whom to support. This gentleman doesn’t donate online, only through writing checks, so I was collecting the mailing addresses for the campaigns after I built the list of prospects.
What I found shocked me. Among the candidates I wanted to suggest, only about two-thirds listed their mailing address ANYWHERE on their website. Only half published it on the donation page.
Given how surprised I was with the results, I wanted to continue my search and see if this trend held. I expanded my unscientific research to fifty Republican congressional campaigns and the numbers actually went down marginally. Roughly 50% of the campaign websites I reviewed allowed voters to find the mailing address.
Campaign funds are a resource that every campaign complains about and each candidate wants more of…it doesn’t matter how much they have. So why would you NOT make it easy for folks to send you more?
As most of y’all know, I’m a huge fan of Winston Churchill. And as soon as I saw this quote from him, its truth resonated with me strongly.
I’d imagine that after hearing the quote, your mind went directly to your opponent or some politician who is guilty of some kind of betrayal. Perhaps it’s through a failure in their personal lives or by something they’ve done within their role as a public official. All of those things factor into what Winston is talking about.
In sum, Churchill is saying that you’re either honorable or you’re not. Virtuous or your not. Possessed of dignity or not.
There are a lot of areas within campaigns where I routinely encourage campaigns to keep things in-house. In a lot of cases, you’re able to save money and achieve an equal or greater quality level in areas like canvassing, fundraising, etc. However, vulnerability and opposition research are not in that class.
I’ve interviewed several folks who work in this world on my How to Run for Office podcast and hope you’ll check them out. But suffice it to say, this is an area where there is always going to be a qualitative difference between the work product of a professional and a beginner.
Each of these two research realms involve identifying and looking under various rocks, trying to locate that hardest to find, often intentionally hidden, nuggets about someone. In terms of opposition research, what you find or don’t find will have a huge impact on the arch of your campaign messaging and your efforts to differentiate yourself from your opponent.