Tis the Season:
What the Election Primaries can Teach you about your Student Government Campaign
Trill or Not Trill?
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have not noticed: we are in the age of social media. Any mistake, misstep or misguided move can instantly blow up, trend and become a meme sensation. No one is immune, especially not the candidates running for the President of the United States.
We’ve certainly had colorful candidates and campaigns before. I’m willing to bet that this collection of Republican and Democratic hopefuls puts all the past to test. Just ask Hilary Clinton of who, not long ago became the latest candidate that fell victim to a not-so-creatively worded e-mail of which turned into an instant trend on Twitter. All it took was one e-mail recipient to take a simple screen shot, and post it to the web.
While all this primary action is happening, we are also moving deeper into the spring semester which happens to mean that Student Government election season is near. As a former Class President and current advisor to the SGO at my institution, I’ve witnessed some great campaigns and some truly horrible ones. I believe this is an excellent time to look at the individual campaigns from the Democratic and (shudders) Republican front runners and show how students can run successful campaigns in their pursuits to become student government officers! In honor of #ImNotKiddingMaddi, the following suggestions will be supported by election season inspired memes.
SUGGESTION #1: UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO
One should not simply wake up one day and decide to run for SGA President. One should probably also not decide on a coin flip on what position to run for. As potential candidates, you should be well informed of all the rules and responsibilities that come along with each student government position. You may not realize that becoming the Vice President of Finance means you are responsible for managing a million dollar student activity fee budget. Along the same lines, you should also be fully aware of all campaign do’s & don’ts. You don’t want to accidently disqualify yourself because you decided to skip a paragraph in your elections packet. I highly suggest that you shadow current student government officers to see student leaders in action.
SUGGESTION #2: CONSIDER YOUR ABILITY TO BE PERSUASIVE AND COMMUNICATE YOUR GOALS
100% of campaigning = convincing your constituents (the students) that you are the right choice. There are many great ways to show why you are the candidate that would make the best SGA President. There are also ways that will make you look like someone who can’t keep promises, or even worse…someone that comes off unlikable. You want to ensure that you have a perfected elevator speech about why you want to run for the position at stake and what goals you would like to accomplish. You will also want to have ways to reach those goals prepared as you will certainly be asked during debates. Do not make promises you know you cannot keep, and do not use factors such as intimidation or guilt.
Also consider how you approach. The whole joke regarding Hilary’s e-mail asking for donations has been perceived as desperate. Don’t be desperate, and don’t beg for the vote. Your confidence, plans and shining personality will do the work for you.
SUGGESTION #3: UNDERSTAND YOUR STUDENT BODY AND ITS NEEDS
Donald Trump probably shouldn’t talk as per the meme above. But, since he does…his actions teach student leaders who want to run for position a valuable lesson. You absolutely need to be able to serve the needs and wants of your institution’s student population. That means you should be on the ground, listening and taking everything into consideration when setting your goals as an officer. You will never make everyone happy, but the idea to at least put your best foot forward. Don’t be the Donald and put your foot in your mouth. It’s important to be sensitive and understanding to diversity across multiple spectrums. What Donald has shown to be excellent at feeling the vibes of the people he wants to communicate with. You too want to connect to the student body and be fully aware of any trends or situations that are afloat.
SUGGESTION #4: DON’T PLAY DIRTY…IT WILL COME BACK TO BITE YOU IN THE YOU KNOW WHERE
One of the big headlines from the Republican side of the Iowa caucuses was Ted Cruz being accused of sending e-mails to voters that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race. As someone who has been around Student Government for quite some time, I can tell you that dirty politics do exist on the student level. As a potential new officer you want to rise above that. Be warned that anything you post on social media will find its way back to the person who you are targeting. In addition, you do not want to put yourself in a position where you may potentially be disqualified. Even in the event that you run a dirty campaign and win the election, you will forever have that distrust which will make it extremely difficult to make a genuine impact.
SUGGESTION #5: BE CAREFUL WHO YOU CHOOSE TO RUN WITH ON A TICKET
If you choose to run on a ticket for student government elections, consider these two major factors: A) Your image is key, and it will also be determined by those that surround you and B) will the ticket you’re running on showcase the strengths of each candidate? Depending on your particular election system, students may only be able to vote by ticket. You absolutely do not want to put yourself in a situation where you’re the lone bright star. On the flip side, a powerful and skillfully balanced ticket can equal voting domination. Running on a ticket also has major advantages in terms of campaigning power just because of more people being available to promote. After all, you just need to look at recent examples of past elections of how a ticket can ultimately sink your chances of being elected or help.
SUGGESTION #6: RUN A CREATIVE, DEDICATED CAMPAIGN
Students will remember your campaign for not only what you offered, but how you offered it. The more creative you are, the better chances you will stick out in their minds come Election Day. Get creative! Relying on flyers is a thing of the past. Using social media is the “it” platform nowadays but do not forget the importance of face to face meeting. I’ve seen some excellent campaigns in the past including candy, cupcakes, and other little giveaways. If students take something away from your interactions, even better! You also want to come off as dedicated to your own cause. I’ve seen heavily favored student leaders lose to the underdog candidate because they simply didn’t campaign hard enough. Never count anyone out. A cool logo/campaign slogan wouldn’t hurt either.
There you have it my aspiring future student government officers. Now is the time when you want to begin mulling your candidacy options. Use the 6 suggestions above to help ensure that you have a great chance at running a campaign that will vault you into the top realm of student leadership.
Scott Siegel-Ortiz is a well-rounded higher education professional with over 8 years of dedication to the development and success of students. His passion for making an impact knows no boundaries and is constantly striving to reach the next level while encouraging his students to do the same.
Scott also loves long walks down the aisles of Target and likes to post lots of pics of his cats on social media.