Fireside Chats, Issue 9

Election Season

Election season is almost here, so to those who are running for elected positions, I have a few words of advice. From my experience campaigning as a sophomore and junior, I’ve learned that there generally are two main criteria by which high school candidates are valued: policy and likeability. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. If a student is perceived to be competent, focused, and capable of instigating real change in the school, then it would be wise for that student to put one or two of those substantive goals at the center of the campaign. For schools like Parker with a smaller amount of students, personal contact goes a long way, I have found. If you are serious about winning a certain position, get on a first-name, hi-in-the-hallway basis with everyone and you’re already halfway there.

Depending on your previous experience, general name recognition will also be a factor. As a budding Student Government candidate, a great way to validate your campaign ideas is to speak with the person who has held the position for which you are running. I even remember doing that freshmen year when I applied for a position.

How people perceive you already can tremendously affect your message and campaign. Regardless, every campaign should have a 30-second elevator pitch or even a slogan. We live in a time of rapid exchange and soundbites. That is why using stickers is so great for this. Find a way to design a logo on your computer and you can use a website like Avery or have stickers printed out at a Staples or FedEx Office. For posters, be aware that no one is going to stop to read your campaign poster. That is why at a moment’s glance, (1) your name should stand out, (2) there should be minimal text, and (3) the theme of the poster should be clear.

At Democrafest you can get an edge by throwing your campaign message on candy bars or by bringing a single food that will be memorable. Not everyone is going to care about Student Government policies, but most people will remember the person who gave them a root beer float. It’s about reciprocity.

At major events come like debates, Democrafest, and speeches, make sure that you have your social media working for you. It takes $10-20 dollars to geo-target ads on Facebook to hit specific groups relatively easily. Better yet, make a Snapchat geo-filter that outlines the perimeter of the school.

On election day, many students may not know where to vote or at what time. Make handouts with as much information as they need and delegate to other people to hand them out. If you need an extra push toward the end, consider hosting your own event for people to ask questions and comment on your campaign. However, don’t overdo it. It can be easy to over-involve yourself in this hectic process. At the end of the day, you can only control so much about the outcome of an election — which is certainly why it caused frustrating days for me campaigning. At times I just wanted everything to unfold exactly how I wanted it to. But after enough time, I learned that what it takes to campaign is to work hard but take care of yourself. Set aside time for the other facets of your life. Be excited about Student Government, but don’t let it consume you. Sleep and eat. You can’t give your all to Student Government while running on empty.