Are you thinking of nominating yourself for student office, but not really sure where to start? I ran for President of the Students’ Union at York St. John University a few years ago and I used to work in the office at the Union helping with the Campaigns and Elections, so I know a thing or two about elections. Now, full disclosure, I didn’t win my election, but I picked up some vital tips along the way. Aside from the most important part of running for office being sorting what you stand for, and thinking about how you could make your Student’s Union better, below are 5 tips I would give to anyone wishing to run for an SU position.
Get involved with as many societies and sports as possible beforehand
This will come in handy when you are trying to rally supporters and can spot some familiar faces around campus. This doesn’t mean you have to join all the sports and societies and get to know everyone – speak to as many people in different groups as you can, whether it’s at the bar of the Union or waiting in line to take out a library book. Students want a friendly face on their Sabbatical board, so be that face and be kind.
Find your tagline and stick to it
This is what you will use on your posters, to get people to notice you and understand what you are running for. When I ran, it was “Got a Dilemma, Vote for Emma”, but then when I brought out my song (more on that later), the line was “Life’s Better with Bailey”, which I think confused some people who didn’t know me. It can take some time to think of something cool and original that will captivate voters, so start thinking about this as soon as possible so you can market your campaign with it in mind.
Form your campaign squad
Pick the people in your life that will support you through the campaign period (usually one week); the ones who will be there to paint t-shirts at 1 in the morning, wear said t-shirts on nights out, and come out with you to canvas your campaign around campus the next morning (probably still wearing the t-shirts). They’re also probably the ones you want with you on election night, no matter the result. It could be 3 people or 30, as long as they’re reliable and willing to be on your squad.
Use social media
You’ll be limited to only being able to broadcast your nomination during the election period, but there’s no harm in scheduling your posts, as you might not have a lot of time on actual election week. Form a Facebook group for your campaign squad so you can share information quickly, make a page for your campaign, put stories up on your Instagram feed, live-tweet your experience. Anything to get people looking and talking about your campaign.
Do something different
And no, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Use your head; what do you do that your candidates don’t? I was blessed to have a friend who was doing a Masters in Music Production, and he offered to write and produce a song for my campaign, which a) was the most fun to make and b) gave me a chance to add a spin to my campaign that my opposing candidate didn’t have. I made a music video across the site with all types of people, and it was probably the highlight of my university career. Having a song meant people were singing about my campaign – I even got it played in a nightclub, played it around the site when we were campaigning: people couldn’t get away from it. And yes, it’s still on YouTube – I worked too hard on it to take it down!! What are you good at? It could be animation, music, speech writing, blogging, rapping, trumpet playing… anything you like. Twist it into something that makes your campaign stand out.
Overall, my obvious advice is to have fun, but I thought that was too cheesy to make it an actual point. Running for office is a great opportunity, and I honestly think that, unless you’re certain in what you want in the next year, whether you run for a Sabbatical role or not, you should just do it. The worst that can happen is you lose but you’ve had a great week with your friends, which really is what university is all about.