Volume 1, Number 8 / December 1, 1994 / Page 3
Beyond the Press Release: the Web as a Campaign Tool
by Chris Lapham (email@example.com)
Wednesday, November 9, 1994 was a dark day in the history of the
Democratic party. Republicans won a resounding national victory as the
Democrats lost leadership of the House.
But not all Democrats were busy
packing up their offices this November: Senator Edward Kennedy
(D-Massachusetts) "survived the death of liberalism" according to
Newsweek and defeated his challenger, Mitt
Romney, by a 58 to 41 percent margin.
Kennedy campaign volunteers attribute the Senator's success to his
legislative record in the Senate. But in this election, the
dissemination of that record took a decidedly high-tech twist. With
technical assistance from
Issue Dynamics (IDI),
a Washington-area service provider, and financial support from the
Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Senator's office
had its own campaign web page,
Kennedy for Senate.
"We created the original hypertext mark-up language (HTML) and basic
structure, while they (IDI) did a lot with the appearance and the mail
form. Knowing it would be short-lived, the campaign web page was very
fluid with new material and links added almost daily. The final
addition was the "Get Out And Vote" link that was added to the top of
the page the day before election day. It included contact information
for every Democratic office in the state and instructions on how to
request or offer rides to the polls," say
Chris Casey, a Kennedy
Kennedy and Technology
According to his staff, the
of Senator Edward Kennedy was the
first Congressional office on the Web. This Senate Office
Web site (a completely
different project from the campaign web) has information on
tracking legislation, the state of Massachusetts, and links to
information servers in Congress, the White House, and national
agencies. To comply with Senate rules that prevent a Senator from using
the Senate FTP, Gopher, or other information
servers prior to an election, the office web page
was "frozen" from July 23 through election day.
No new material was posted during this period.
In contrast to the office web site, Kennedy's campaign web page focused
on the Senator's ideology and congressional record. Voters could easily
find the Senator's legislative record, field reports, and most
importantly, where Kennedy stood on issues ranging from elderly
Americans and labor issues, to gay and lesbian rights and
Going Beyond Press Releases
Political and commercial web sites can often fall into the trap of
simply disseminating press releases electronically. Those that are
successful--Kennedy for Senate had about ten visits per hour in the
last days of the campaign--rise above this temptation, and provide
useful, informative, and even entertaining links to web travelers. For
example, the Kennedy for Senate page provided a direct link to the
Senator, through Kennedy On-line, from which readers could access the
Map of WWW Resources.
page also included the Yahoo Guide to the WWW, where visitors could
find such luscious tidbits as "Oliver North, transcending any election
efforts or rise and fall in media attention, the Oliver North page
coordinates resources and high hilarity about the Real American Hero."
(sounds like a must-see for Dems and Republicans alike.) Kennedy's
campaign page also linked to the DSCC, with its "Top Ten List," a good
source of current political information and satire.
Doing It Right
"I think our effort set a strong standard for doing it well," says
Campaign Volunteer Casey. "Political campaigns have an important future
on the net, but just as there is a right way and a wrong way to go
about advertising on-line, there is a right and a wrong way to
campaign. The smart candidate will be careful to do it right, posting
to appropriate newsgroups, providing useful information and links to
related resources, and basically demonstrating an understanding of
netiquette that will make them a welcome presence on the net rather
than an unwanted intruder," he says.
Campaigning on the nets is novel in '94 admits Casey,
but he predicts that by '96 it will be routine.
Chris Lapham, Chief Correspondent for CMC Magazine, is
a freelance writer and reporter who
lives in the Capital Region of New York. She is currently completing a
degree in Communication and Rhetoric at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
Copyright © 1994 by Chris Lapham. All Rights Reserved.
This Issue /
CMC Studies Center