Barack Obama & John McCain’s Lessons for Church Web Sites

July 1, 2008 by

While you can’t endorse a presidential candidate as a church, you are allowed to learn from them. And there’s plenty to learn from the communications practices of candidates. Let’s start with their web sites (I’ve blogged about these issues elsewhere, but let’s apply them to the church):

Web 2.0 Friendly
Both John McCain and Barack Obama are embracing the web 2.0 wave. They’ve got MySpace profiles, Facebook friends, YouTube videos and Twitter tweets (they also both have their own social networking sites, and McCainSpace). The real question is if they’ll make the most out of them. More channels can just be more noise unless you take advantage of the unique strengths of each new channel. And if you ignore the rules like John McCain did last year, you’ll end up looking ridiculous.
For Churches: Twitter, YouTube and Facebook can be great tools, but know how to use them. Don’t just jump on the latest bandwagon.

Barack Obama Has No Search Box
If you visit Barack Obama’s web site you’ll be hard pressed to find a search box. His site is huge and crammed with information, but there’s no search functionality. What? It doesn’t matter how great your content is, it’s worthless if people can’t find it.
For Churches: Make sure your web site has a search box. Google can hook you up for free if you’re technically inept .

Answer Questions
I contacted both candidates last week with a simple question and received widely different responses. Barack Obama’s campaign added me to their e-mail newsletter without asking and has sent me eight e-mails in a week, none of which answered my question. On the other hand John McCain’s campaign hasn’t sent me so much as an auto-response. One candidate gives me the cold shoulder, the other won’t leave me alone. And neither one answers my question.
For Churches: Answer questions as they come up. And if you don’t know the answer it’s OK to say so. Just communicate with people. That’s what most of our marketing work is trying to get people to do, so don’t turn someone off by failing to answer a question.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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7 Responses to “Barack Obama & John McCain’s Lessons for Church Web Sites”

  • Friendly helper
    July 1, 2008

    Why is your website acting funny in IE all of the sudden? The graphics are very slow.

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  • Steve K.
    July 1, 2008

    Kevin, for the record, the Obama website functions more like a social networking site (with links through to Obama groups on just about every other existing social networking site!) than it does your typical website where a search box is vitally important.
    I think for regular users who login to, the lack of a global search function is pretty inconsequential, because every other action you would take gives you a navigation or “search” function (e.g., “Find Events”) that serve the purpose of helping you find what you’re looking for.
    But you’re right, if you were just looking for information on, say, where Obama stands on abortion, good luck in finding it (’cause it aint obvious, if there’s even anything on there)! ;-)

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  • MarketingTwins-Randy
    July 9, 2008

    Good ideas for churches! I also enjoy signing up for their email marketing because it gives me ideas – churches could sure do that better, too!

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  • Michael L
    July 16, 2008

    Well, after hearing McCain’s comments to a reporter the other day, who asked if he was a PC or Mac guy, to which he replied, “Neither, I rely on my wife for all that”, I’m not sure I’d trust this guy with his finger on the big red button. (Or any other button for that matter.)
    As far as the comment on Obama’s view on abortion, for example, you are right, it’s not there. However, I don’t think these are designed to be very comprehensive websites, detailing everything about the candidate.
    Interestingly enough, I have gone on more than enough Church websites that basically do the same thing. I may find an interesting church, and want to find out more about it, only to be left wondering what they are trying to hide. For example, Fairy Meadow Community Church. (I just made it up). Their website tells me alot about their programs, how to be involved, but doesn’t tell me who they are affiliated with. I think churches could do a whole lot better marketing than they do.
    At least the Obama campaign is sending you materials. That tells me that they want your vote. If I contacted 2 candidates (I’m in Canada BTW), and only 1 bothered to respond, who am I more likely to support? That tells me that this candidate will be the one that will more than likely listen to any concerns I may have in the long run.

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  • “While you can’t endorse a presidential candidate as a church” I laughed when I read this after hearing so many churches endorse people in polotics.
    Anyway, we should pay close attention to them in any case. Anyone that is able to get their message out to so many needs to be watched by the church and ideas should be picked up from it.

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  • build a church website
    November 20, 2009

    What makes these guys so popular anyway? I think it is like school… the cool kids are the most outspoken and active. Maybe that is something we can learn from too.

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  • JeffK
    January 23, 2011

    How’s the mortgage crisis, and free fall in home prices, going to be solved if people can not get a job? There are an incredible number of individuals that have lost their houses and many more will unless America starts generating something more then excuses. It is time to alter the trade deals with the Chinese. For heavens sake, our primary trade partner is communist.

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