Candidate Website Review: Dean Cavaretta

So I have decided that every month I am going to evaluate a MassGOP candidate’s web efforts and post them online. It will be constructive feedback. Yes, I could just email this to the candidate, but I think it would be good for others to hear this stuff. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to publicly comment on a candidate’s stuff if it is out there for everyone to see, eh?

The rubric I am going to use for these evaluations is:

How well do the candidate’s web efforts accomplish the following things:

1. Raise money

2. Get volunteers involved

3. Engage the media

4. Advertise the issues

5. Advertise the biography of the candidate

6. Support get-out-the-vote activities

I will not evaluate the message, candidate viability, or anything like that.

The first one is going to be: Dean Cavaretta (http://www.deancavaretta.com).  I met him very briefly at the Scott Brown Christmas party, and he has posted some stuff here on RMG. There is going to be a lot to cover, and I think other campaigns could benefit from this analysis.

Let’s get to it! (read more)

Raise Money

First, Dean has chosen Click-and-Pledge as his fundraising platform. For this kind of race, this is perfectly fine. There are lots of platforms to choose from, including pyrx, fundraise.com, fundly, paypal, authorize.net, and suites that include fundraising like activate direct.  What makes them different? On the front end, they all just have a form. They are different on the back end in terms of reporting, management, etc. Some have neat features like letting a supporter have his own donation page and to raise money through that. Fundraise.com has this, and, for reference Scott Brown uses that (in addition to Fundly on his main website). The pricing is all about a monthly fee vs. a per-transaction percentage game. Fundly’s page (http://fundly.com/pricing) gives you an idea of what the situation is.  For state campaigns where you’re not raising a zillion dollars and have little startup money, you probably want to go for lower monthly fee and a higher percentage. If you plan on raising a lot, you want to go the other way.

So Dean uses click-and-pledge, which has the pricing schedule shown here: http://clickandpledge.com/Pric…  I don’t know what he uses, but this looks reasonable. The reporting on the back end looks good enough for the kind of race he is running.

One big error on his site is to have the donate button at the bottom of the page. Worst of all – you have to scroll down to find it. Usability surveys show that 50% of web visitors never scroll on sites that they aren’t used to doing it for (like a newspaper or blog). That means lots of people will never see that button. All the pro sites make sure the contribute button is up top and visible on every single page. That’s the way to go.

Get Volunteers Involved



Getting volunteers involved involves the following things:

1. Displaying things that they can do

2. Getting their information and interest into a system to manage them

3. Checking to see what they have done

Dean’s website, which is just a brochure, fails all three tests. The gold standard is to use an all-in-one tool like nationbuilder.com, which has great volunteer intake and management, and tasks. I think their site should be considered by every candidate. The great guys at Fourtier solutions (Massachusetts Republicans Brad Marston and John LaRosa) are using it on the Jeff Semon Congressional race and they are the guys to contact for anyone who needs tech consulting.  

There are other ways to do this. You can roll your own with wufoo.com (a form processing site) and have visitors fill out forms with info and their interest in helping. You can then pump that into a CRM system (something easy like Highrise – www.highrisehq.com) and then manage them there. In general, Wufoo is awesome and you can use it for all kinds of forms (including fundraising) and even stick those forms into Facebook. It’s huge to have the same volunteer intake forms in Facebook and on your website.

Dean uses constant contact for email registration for both his website and also on his Facebook page. That’s fine, but constant contact is a little behind the cutting edge on managing people and email lists. It’s fine to use it, but it is worth checking out competitors, both in the all-in-one space like nationbuilder, but also options like MailChimp. They are usually better on pricing.  

For the Dixon campaign last year, I had two forms: an in-person volunteer form (for lit drops, etc.) and a social media volunteer form (for that stuff).  We put both forms on his main website and on Facebook, and it funneled everything into highrise to manage them and their activities. It worked well. Nationbuilder came out after that campaign was in full swing, and I might have chosen that instead if it had come out sooner.

As for social media, Dean has a decent Facebook feed (I follow it) and it is above-average in quality. Yet he doesn’t give his followers anything to “do”.  Check the GOP presidential Facebook pages for great examples of that. Dean has his email list signup in FB, which is great, but only gathers the email address.

Lastly, volunteers want a volunteer-specific calendar that they can subscribe to. Dean needs a few calendars (probably best in Google) that he can offer to various audiences. There should be at least four calendars: general, vote-remidners only, volunteer, and media.

Oh – and for bonus points, his event calendar should have mappable locations for each, and there should be a master map of all campaign activities. (There are free tools that can take an event calendar and show all events on a map.)

Engage the Media

Dean’s site has a news page, but unfortunately has nothing else.

Your media page shouldn’t so much list stories, but be a place where media can really engage you. You should have an intake form for interview and info requests, and then pump that into a CRM (again, on the Dixon campaign we used highrise to track media inquiries, and it worked great). You should have themes there, and links to social media right up front. Again, Dean has his social media stuff buried at the bottom of pages, a real defect.

Reporters want certain things from a campaign, including a calendar, and it is a major flaw that he doesn’t have a calendar that the media can subscribe to. He should also have “follow” and “subscribe” buttons for FB and Twitter on that page, as reporters love to use those tools to get updates.

Advertise the issues



Dean’s site does a good job saying what he thinks on things. I would go further and have retweets and Facebook shares right there on the issues page that let people share key positions of his easily.

His Facebook and Twitter feeds are actually quite good! He has YouTube videos on his fan page, which is great. So no improvements needed there. Yes, I could recommend some radical things to try, but his time is best spent elsewhere.

His videos are a little long and aren’t the kind of thing that will go viral. I think he needs more “people” content and less “issue” content if he wants his videos to travel.

Biography



Dean did a decent job, but he needs to do more. A video would be great. Perhaps even a timeline. The gold standard is shown on Jon Huntsman’s site here: http://jon2012.com/jon

GOTV



GOTV begins on day one, not two weeks before the election. (Did that sound enough like a political consultant? 🙂 )  Dean seems to be doing nothing about that now.  Here is some advice:

Part of this involves proper intake of volunteers so you can establish a relationship that will last until election day. You should also have a simple Google calendar with just two election-day reminders to vote. Put that link on your site so people can click it and import those reminders instantly into Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar, whatever. That way, even if they space out or only visited your site once, they will still be reminded to vote on election day. I have told this trick to many campaigns, most forget to do it. It is the best free GOTV tactic in the universe.

Also, Dean needs to add more specific information on who can vote with a link to the site that tells you what senate district you are in. His volunteer intake form (when he gets one) should differentiate between those who live in the district and those who don’t, and maybe even include their local polling place.  

Dean should have a list of every polling place in his senate district on his site, and if he really wants to show off, he should have a Facebook and Foursquare check-in location for each one, and use them to have an election-day dry run a week ahead of time with his volunteers to test out his GOTV effort.

Summary



In general, Dean needs to spruce up his website, get control of his volunteers, give the media more to work with, and get some calendars up on his site. I hope he doesn’t find this review of his stuff offensive.

Next time, I may do Scott Brown. As he has millions of dollars and high-paid consultants, I will really take the gloves off. 🙂

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