Candidate Web Tech Review: Elizabeth Childs (4th Congressional)

As I said in a previous post, I am going to be reviewing the web technology of various Massachusetts Republican campaigns.

(Yes, I had said I would do Scott Brown next, but I am going to wait a couple of more weeks for that.)

This time, I will be reviewing the web technology of Elizabeth Childs, a Republican who is running for the national 4th Congressional seat, now held by Barney Frank. I chose her because this will be a very-watched election, and her website is similar in type to many state-level campaigns.

Disclaimer: I have never met Mrs. Childs, even though we live less than 1 mile from each other. I don’t know anyone from her campaign. This is just my opinion on what she is doing in public.

The rubric I use for all these evaluations is how well the web technology of the candidate does 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

Mrs. Childs’s website is here: http://www.childsforcongress.c…

She has no presence that I can find on Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, or anything else. (more on that later)

Let’s get to the evaluation.

(more after the jump)

1. Raise money

Childs has donation links both next to her video and on the top navigation on her site, which is good. She uses a fundraising site called “Donation Pages” (http://donationpages.com/Directory/Home) that I have never heard of before. (They are part of a larger entity called “Election Mail” that does political stuff for campaigns.) They take a 5% cut and a per-transaction fee. Hmmm… there are better deals around with lower fees and/or no per-transaction fee. (She may not care if she has few donations.) But these places also have nicer looking forms and social networking integration. So I would recommend changing horses there.

Should she go for the be-your-own-bundler model of Fundraise.com (where your volunteers can have their own pages for you)? I don’t know. I guess it depends on her donor strategy.

2. Get volunteers involved

First, it’s great to see the volunteer link in the top navigation. It leads to an ugly, circa-2005 web form, which probably puts the data into a spreadsheet, or, more likely, emails her the submission. Childs uses a barebones $5/month website hosting firm called 1and1.com, and I am sure they offer a form builder that created this form. (They also offer many other tools you can install, but she doesn’t appear to be using them.)

The form isn’t attractive, but I am impressed at what is in it! Most volunteer forms, even for the big national players, have just a view fields. I think it’s great that Childs has people tell what they would like to do for her.

Of course, I don’t know what she does with this data. I doubt it is fed into a system that makes it easy to manage volunteers, but I hope it does!

She does have a Google calendar, which is great. You can subscribe to it – but only we nerds know that the little google calendar link in the lower-right corner lets you do that. She needs a big subscribe link. It would also be nice if there was a volunteer-specific calendar.

I would also recommend a Flickr account with tags for the campaign so people had a place to put photos of her events somewhere that people could find.

Lastly, she must use social media to get followers to do things (donate, participate in getting the message out, etc.). Lots of campaigns do this and she should pay attention to what they do.

3. Engage the media

Her news page has a subscription form for press releases, a press kit, and an email address for inquiries. First, I am glad to see the press kit stuff. It is very professional and very useful for journalists. I wish more candidates did that.

I recommend a separate, minimal calendar that journalists might want to subscribe to.

As for signing up for press releases – that’s old school. Journalists now use Twitter and Facebook to follow campaigns – even small-town newspapers do it. So I would get rid of that form. Also, I would convert the email address for inquiries to a form that allowed you to put that journalist into a CRM system – something like Highrise, of course – so you could track and manage your relationship with everyone in the media. If they want to sign up for the general email updates, that’s fine. This will allow you to keep all of your data in one place. You could also look at using contact syncing software to centralize this information on a database that will allow you to access the information at any time. Such solutions are available with companies similar to PieSync.

4. Advertise the issues

Childs has an issues page that is decent. However, I think it should have more than just text, such as video clips of her speaking, and I think the page should offer contrasts with long-time Congressman Barney Frank (to let people know what would be different than what they have experienced for 30 years) and with her competitors.

She should also use social media to broadcast her positions on the issues.

5. Biography

Childs does this very well.  I felt that after watching the video slideshow up front and reading the nice “About” section, I know who she is.

It would be nice to have a few video clips of her speaking. I might have a “Brookline Republican?” section. After all, it is odd to find a Republican in this liberal Mecca. It has produced some interesting Republicans: me, Sean Bielat, Richard Wheeler, Tony Ferrucci of the MassGOP, and more. It would be nice to have some commentary on what it means to be the sand in the oyster here and why that would matter as a congresswoman in such a divided nation.

6. Get out the vote

It isn’t clear that Childs is doing anything on this front. GOTV first starts with volunteer and voter management. She needs to manage this info on “the back end” and then leverage social media as well.

Also, the district map on her website is no longer valid, thanks to the redistricting. She must update that and help people find out if they are in the new district, and welcome the newcomers.

Summary

Right now, Childs’s website looks like a brochure out of 2004. She appears to be a sincere and capable public servant, but her site says that she is not a real candidate in a world where online performance is now a major factor for national races.

What would I recommend? Well, not something radical, like a change of platform. But, I think she should….

1. Get a Facebook Fan page and put links to it on the site.

2. Get a Twitter account.

3. Get a tool that you can use to post to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously. (There are many.)

4. Get a Flickr account and create a tag (e.g. childsforMA4) so people can upload photos of campaign events.

5. Use Wufoo for all forms, which pulls information into a great system that integrates with many other cheap, awesome tools. (Highrise for contact management, MailChimp and others for email lists, etc) Wufoo lets you stick forms anywhere – even in Facebook pages. Once you integrate it with Highrise and MailChimp, someone filling out a form on your site puts them on an email list and into your contact management system automatically. It’s magic and saves so much time.

6. Get a Highrise subscription – the cheapest level  – (www.highrisehq.com) and use it to manage volunteers, donors, and media inquiries. It is a lifesaver and something one person can use to keep track of all campaign contacts without having a staff.

7. Do more with YouTube. Her YouTube page (http://www.youtube.com/user/childsforcongress?feature=watch) is blank and needs to filled out and have more videos there.

Well, that’s all for this evaluation. Thanks for reading!  Next time will be Scott Brown.  

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