Cllr Benjamin Dennehy was elected to Ealing Council, London in 2010 to represent Hanger Hill Ward. A councillor having a website is not enough – it needs to be good. His own website is here.
Communication, communication, communication….The one thing that elected representatives would appear to have failed to do time and time again is communicate effectively with their constituents. It’s an issue that is raised all the time on the doorstep, despite the fact we know we have delivered our (at the very least) quarterly pamphlet telling them what’s going on in their neighbourhood.
For those of us that are involved in politics, that have an interest in what’s happening locally and are keen to know what the ‘opposition’ are doing, we read the political leaflets that come through our door. Most residents however do not.
Most communiqués by political parties are so dull they fail to attract the eye of the reader because, due to limited funds, we often create them in house with 2 or three colours. They are generally written without any creative flair and usually have a few pictures of us shaking hands or standing gormlessly staring at the camera. These factors, coupled with the fact that our material is often trapped in between glossy pizza flyers and clothing recycle sacks, means they are all too often overlooked.
Those of us that have a website have spent little to no money on it. Believing that merely having a website is in itself enough. They are often text heavy and they provide no experience for the user other than the basics of telling them; who, what, when, where and how. We could not have it more wrong.
Our online presence is as important today as us being in a room with our constituents.
People will form an instant impression about you from your website, as they will do from how you speak. Brands around the world have realised the power of good websites and their ability to create a rich user experience. A website no longer just ‘displays’ the products, it engages the user, creates an experience and encourages them to return.
The internet is not ‘just another tool’ in the politicians armoury, it is THE TOOL of the 21st Century and we must utilise it or face our fate alone.
If your online presence does not engage, does not inspire, does not interact, then it does nothing for you. What money (peanuts probably) you have spent has actually caused you damage rather than aid you, because the impact of a bad website is the same as a bad meal at a restaurant to a user. They tell people.
The world we live in is a 24/7 environment. Numerous polls show us that at least 70% of the time people now search a topic online before doing any other type of research. The internet is where people go to get their information.
Every politician, local or national, in this new 24/7 world needs to be accessible at all times. The only way this is achievable is by having a website that not only tells them who you are, what you do and how to contact you, but it must meet the needs of your constituents and give them a platform to interact with you, to engage with you, to enable them to air a grievance, to sing a praise, to uncover facts and to participate in a conversation. Your website is their window to you and your representation. It doesn’t bombard them with text, it encourages them to participate.
Politicians will hate this but the ‘look and feel’ of a website is so important. Techies talk about ‘dwelltime’ and ‘click thrus’. These terms are vital as they are indicators as to how a website performs, the more engaging a site the higher the dwell time, in politics speak ‘you’re getting longer to get your message across’. Click thrus is even better because, after dwelling, rather than leave the website, they enter further into it thereby giving the politician even more opportunity to engage.
We all need engaging websites. They are not luxuries. They are THE essential tool in today’s world.
Fellow Conservatives I implore you to explore this brave new world because our political survival will depend on it. This is a legitimate investment for any politician. We must seize the initiative in the life of this Parliament to ensure we are one virtual step ahead of the rest.