No-one visiting a politician’s website realistically expects the site to be entirely written by the actual individual. But how should a site be written and designed on a candidate’s behalf? Importantly, what person should be used in the text?
That’s the question I’ve posed myself after looking at the campaign websites of Ed Miliband, David Miliband and John McDonnell (I haven’t analysed Andy Burnham as he has just one page, and the other two don’t have sites yet).
Even the menu is confusing on David Miliband’s site – see above – as I, me and David are used in the wording. In the middle of the page things do not improve – 10 facts about David leads through to a page written third person, while you join or donate to ‘my’ campaign. Further down the page ‘My campaign updates’ features articles written first person – presumably by David – and by MPs that are supporting him, and also entries by the campaign team.
Things are not much better at Ed Miliband’s site. The top of the page uses ‘we’, and in Campaign Blog there are entries that use ‘I’ and ‘Ed’.
Only John McDonnell is clear on all of this – all entries use ‘I’. But the design is a disaster, and it’s not at all clear why you should vote for him on the basis of the site…
So to conclude, what should a campaign actually do about this?
The simple answer, like everything else in social media and online campaigning, is to be frank, open and honest about who’s doing what. If it is the candidate blogging, writing on Twitter etc., then use ‘I’ and make it clear it’s the candidate doing it. If it’s something by the campaign team, other MPs or supporters, make that clear too – state the author of a post is ‘Ed’s team’ rather than ‘Ed’ for example. Design the site accordingly by making sections entitled ‘Campaign news’ (or an equivalent) that’s penned by the team, and ‘Campaign blog’ that’s by the individual candidate.
For me a candidate actively engaging themselves – as individuals – online is a positive virtue in this race. The candidates’ websites need to do a better job of showcasing that.