For candidates and operatives, campaigning is a linear narrative because we live it from start to finish, but for most voters, they will tune into the election at different times and in a variety of ways. This means there’s no guarantee about what context – if any – a voter has about the candidate.
In earlier times, when there were just a handful of newspapers and local TV stations covering a race, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that voters had the full context. Now, with social networks and a fragmented media landscape, we can’t rely on that.
An orientation or “Start Here” page is the solution. Check out some of my examples here and here. Every campaign should have one – just like an About or Issues page. It quickly gives a voter the context he or she needs to understand the race, your candidate, and the campaign issues.
Here are tips to build an effective orientation page.
Frontload The Content
When a visitor comes to your “Start Here” page, they might spend 15 seconds, 30 seconds, or 90 seconds. Put your most important information up front, then go into more depth as they keep reading.
Begin by answering some of the most common questions, like where is the district, when is the election, what party does the candidate affiliate with, and what is his or her background. This isn’t an FAQ document, but rather a narrative of your pitch to voters.
Focus on Why & What, Not Who
An orientation page is not the same thing as an About page so the content should be different from the biography. The “Start Here” page is introducing a visitor to the campaign, not the candidate. Link to the biography, but only mention it briefly.
The emphasis should be on why the election is important, why your candidate is running, and what a visitor needs to know about helping out.
Deliver on the promise of “Start Here” by helping visitors finding what they need. This is a good exercise to empathize with your supporters and learn what they’re looking for.
Think about the tasks that a visitor is trying to accomplish beyond the obvious email signup and donate which should be everywhere on your site. Is that getting yard signs? Attending an event?
Highlight Evergreen Content
That launch video from 8 months ago? You might not be promoting it on social media now, but it’s still relevant to a first-time visitor. Link to important videos, policy proposals, or major speeches that are foundational to the campaign, but may be buried by more recent content in timelines or news feeds.
With algorithmic discovery playing an increased role in how voters find candidates and get political news it’s the campaign’s duty to provide the context they need. A “Start Here” page should be an essential part of modern campaign websites.