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RUN WITH US WORKSHOPS: Top Tips For Campaigning
Another year has come and gone and right around the corner is the University of Calgary’s most hectic and chaotic time. That’s right, the SU elections are upon us. So you’re thinking of running in the election for a vacant position? Whether it be for a seat on Senate, Board of Governors, Faculty Representative or Executive position, running in the election is one of the best ways to get involved on campus and is an unforgettable, memorable experience – no matter the outcome. I like to think of it as a two-week long roller coaster ride full of emotions; challenging, yet rewarding. I commend your initiative.
Before embarking on this crazy journey- there are some sage words of wisdom I’d like to bestow upon you. Before campaigning even begins I’d advise you to explore each role, consult the knowledge of those already involved and make the decision that’s best for you. In that same vein, I can’t stress the importance of knowing the Nominations Package inside and out. This is a document outlining the rules and regulations of the elections process. The Election staff should also be available to answer any questions you may have.
Now that you’ve done all the prep work necessary and you still want to run, it’s time to start thinking about how to campaign effectively. I’d recommend building a team of supporters to assist you. You’ll need to reach hundreds (and possibly thousands) of students and this can’t be done alone. Lean on your friends! I’d also recommend weighing the merits of having a campaign manager, formally referred to as an official agent. Campaign managers can help organize your campaign and complete tasks while acting as your number one fan; remember that you will be held responsible if a campaign manager (and other volunteers) violates any guidelines in the Nomination Package. This is a conversation you need to have with all of your volunteers.
Next comes the actual campaign. Make sure you know your stuff. Research your platform. Be prepared to answer questions (whether it is from a voter or at a forum) and rehearse an elevator pitch. At the end of the day, campaigning is about reaching as many constituents (students) as you can in an innovative way. Practice soft skills like remaining positive (trust me, you’ll get drained and want to quit), public speaking, and staying genuine (just be yourself!). This is an area of the campaign where you’ll undoubtedly improve as a result. If you can perfect the craft of approaching others in a positive, friendly manner, you will benefit later in life.
You will also have to manage other areas of the campaign such as budgeting, designing (and strategically placing) posters, engaging with students on social media, and other campaign tactics. Obvious budgetary tips include a) employing cost-effective methods of producing material so as to save money and b) keeping your receipts in a safe place (failing to submit a receipt results in disqualification). I’d recommend writing out a budget for specific elements of your campaign prior to spending any money and keeping a contingency fund in case you need to spend during the campaign period. It’s up to you whether you’d like to spend your money on posters or banners, or a combination of both. Both (as well as handbills for that matter) are effective means of advertising yourself across campus (or your faculty). My first piece of counsel is to consider a themed campaign. From a marketing perspective, you will be successful if all of your produced material ties back to a familiar, well-recognized brand unique to you. Be creative and true to yourself here. Your ‘brand’ could literally be anything – a colour, pop culture reference, animal, something pertaining to your platform, etc.
I believe the number one mistake committed by candidates is… the name is too small on poster/banner. When a student votes, all they see is your name on the ballot. Your name should be the single largest thing on your promo material. The position you’re running for is also important. Everything else is just sheepish add-ons, IMO. Your material should look like good quality (no crayons, that’s weird), and appear professional.
If there’s any one piece of advice I can sign off on, it’d be to have fun and work hard. Don’t let not working as hard as you could have be the reason you aren’t successful. Like anything in life, live without regrets and have fun. As difficult and strenuous as campaigning is, the people you meet and the memories you’ll make plus the skills you’ll develop along the way are priceless.
Thanks and keep smiling!