One of the modern perceptions of political life is that the first thing you start doing after winning an election is start campaigning for the next election. Rather than looking at web sites for candidates for office in the coming two years, I was curious to see what the web sites of recently elected candidates showed. The first site I viewed was Kelly Ayotte’s Senator Ayotte, U.S. Senator for New Hampshire. Senator Ayotte has not yet been in her office for 100 days and the Spartan appearance of her site seems to reflect it. So I went to the other side of the spectrum.
Senator Charles Grassley was elected to the Senate in 1980 and his 2010 election, in which he garnered 63% of the vote to 33% for the Democratic nominee, was his closest election as an incumbent. For all intent and purposes, Senator Grassley appears to be entrenched and, as such, is seems to have no concern about speaking his mind. In 2009, Senator Grassley suggested AIG management that collected bonuses off Federal bailout money should “follow the Japanese model” and resign immediately or commit suicide. And perusing his Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa site, you’ll find a large number of defined changes he is seeking to make with his post in the Senate. There is plenty to disagree with depending on your leanings, but it provides legitimate issues to discuss instead of arguing which party likes children, families, small businesses, and the middle class more. It also demonstrates that those politicians who are not at risk of losing of losing their political seat or chasing a greater one are more likely to speak their mind.
The web page though is a bit bland. Rather than analyze the page, we analyzed one of Senator Grassley’s e-newsletters (links to which can be found on his web site) Senator Grassley eNewsletter. NextStage’s Political Analyzer has this to say about the page: Senator Grassley’s “The Scoop” Newsletter Analyzed 8 Mar 11 2:30pmET.
Go ahead. Take a look. I’ll wait …
I was disappointed by the age demographic. So I went back and looked at the e-newsletter to try to determine what Senator Grassley could do to target a broader audience. The format of the e-newsletter is that of front-page headlines, but the opening sentences are 30 words, 16 words, 27 words, 13 words, 21 words, 24 words, and 26 words. The average word is about 5.25 characters long. Compare that to Mitch Daniel’s 2011 CPAC speech that ran 19 words/sentence and averaged 4.75 characters/word. Mitch Daniel’s speech also targeted a younger and broader audience. Certainly, these are not magic numbers, but it appears those who author Senator Grassley’s pieces need to simplify their statements to reach a younger, broader audience.
There is also some jargon in these sentences. I know that Senator Grassley has long been known for his support of ethanol and ethanol subsidies, but I don’t know that biofuel and biodiesel have entered the common vernacular (perhaps they have in Iowa). He also used TARP for Troubled Asset Relief Program and Special IG for Special Inspector General. These terms and abbreviations may be necessary for Senator Grassley to convey his point, but particularly for a newsletter front page that is going to be light on substance out of necessity, the language should be quickly and easily digested. Avoiding specialized jargon and industry abbreviations increases the likelihood a reader will process the headline and first statement and click through to read more. Utilizing specialized jargon and industry abbreviations sends the signal that this content is not for me, it is for someone specialized and familiar with the industry. I would encourage the authors of this newsletter to drill down the topics, avoid abbreviations and specialized language, keep these headline sentences to 12-15 words/sentence. These changes will encourage more readers to read the articles and, I’d like to think, create more of an opportunity for worthwhile political discussion.