Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Connaughton4LtGov: An In-Depth Look Pt. 1

Now that Sean Connaughton'’s campaign for Virginia's lieutenant governor has come to an early end in a loss to State Senator Bill Bolling in the June 7 primary, hindsight becomes a campaign manager'’s best enemy. This analysis of his web campaign will attempt to point out one area in which Connaughton showed promise and another in which his weaknesses were fully exposed.
[Note: The Connaughton website was taken down the night of the primary, but the infrastructure of the site remains online. Please go to www.connaughton4ltgov.com/bio.shtml to navigate. Unfortunately, the home page is forever changed.]

>>The Good
What Connaughton needed to do was break away from Bolling'’s issues and define the race on his terms, perhaps on veterans affairs or job creation. The site's strengths were few and far between, heavily outweighed by its clunky, cluttered, disorganized, amateur negatives. The result is that I couldn'’t help but think that the campaign was doomed. If the website isn't competing properly, how can I expect any other aspect of the campaign to be doing so?

But there is silver lining in the Connaughton site. In wanting to portray himself as a down-to-earth, small-time local guy who gets the job done, the candidate established an excellent tone on his website. While it is hard to quantify the concept of tone, I feel that the tone of a campaign site can make it or break it for a lot of voters. If it strays too deeply into the negative or desperate, an undecided visitor can see that and will be turned off. If it sounds too good to be true, a voter’'s cynicism will be topping out the meters.

Connaughton opted out of the slick layout and graphics that his opponent used well, instead using a very rudimentary design that looks, feels and operates as if it'’s homemade. Without a doubt, this modesty is necessary for Connaughton'’s image. In essence, the site is politely saying, "Hey, our guy isn'’t a Richmond big-talker. He'’s a Prince William big-doer." Had the content of the site and the layout evoked a consistency with this tone, the sky could have been the limit for Connaughton, promoting and defending his record while serving primarily as a community tool by which Virginia Republicans can come and spread the word about Connaughton, make a public endorsement, and be persuaded to volunteer and donate.

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