Running for a role in a student council is one of the best extracurricular activities you can take while at school. In a similar way to taking a part-time job while you study, having a student council role on your résumé will really make you stand out from the crowd with prospective employers or university admission boards, and it can really benefit your career after your studies. It shows that you are responsible enough to take on decision-making roles, and that you are influential amongst your peers.
You can also demonstrate effective time management through actively participating in a student council, as well as completing your studies and exams.
Of course, all this begins with running a campaign to have yourself elected to one of these roles. This is not easy and requires a lot of effort and preparation, so we’ve put together this article that goes through the 10 best steps to take to create an effective student council campaign.
1. Decide which role you want to run for
There are many different student council roles — more than many people might realize. Roles will vary from institution to institution, but in general, might include the following:
- Student Council President
- Vice President
- Marketing or Social Media Secretary
- Social Events Secretary
- Student Relations Liaison
- Staff Relations Liaison
The first step in thinking about an effective student council campaign is deciding which of these roles you might want to run for. The best way to think about this choice is to consider which role you have a natural interest in. This will allow your passion to shine through and increase your credibility. Think about which role might be aligned with your skills. For example, if you have a natural aptitude for marketing, then the Social Media Secretary role might be a good fit.
Finally, think about your future career and if a student council role aligns with your career aspirations. For example, if you wish to go into finance, then becoming a treasurer will be an excellent fit. Try to only run for one role, otherwise you will struggle to devote time to multiple responsibilities.
2. Be consistent in all that you do
Every campaign needs to have a theme and communicate a cause. This can all be discussed when formulating a campaign strategy (which we go over later), but the overarching point here — and one to apply to all steps of running an effective campaign — is that your behaviors, actions and communication must all be consistent.
Consistency will engage your audience and make you relatable and reliable. People will know what you are standing for and what your messaging is. Keeping your campaign messaging consistent will create and sustain trust in you as a person, which will probably translate to more votes in the elections.
3. Recruit a team of supporters and grow your network
An effective student council campaign doesn’t come together through the work of one person. Ensure you have a close network of supporters and helpers who can work with you to grow your campaign.
These supporters will not have conflicting priorities or be running for the role themselves. They might be friends or close acquaintances who want to see you succeed. They might also have specific skills that will help you pull the campaign together. This will also demonstrate your abilities as a leader.
Finally, start networking and get to know other people that might help you. This is especially important if you can’t rely on friends or acquaintances for any reason. Networking is essential for many reasons, such as drawing in voters, but having an immediate network to support you in executing the campaign is true gold dust.
4. Create a campaign strategy and slogan
With your support team, create a campaign strategy. This will include who does what and a plan of action, including dates and timings. For example, set a date for handing out flyers, a date for speeches, and a date they need to be drafted by.
You must also put together basic marketing essentials, such as working on a slogan and a logo. An effective strategy ensures you and your team make the best out of your time and resources and leads to an effective plan to keep the campaign on track.
An effective and memorable slogan needs to be relevant to the audience and catchy (so don’t make it too long). Try to include alliteration (the same beginning letter or sound), assonance (repetition of vowel sounds) or other word styles to make it memorable.
The best slogans evoke an emotion, are relevant to your message, and are used consistently and repeatedly for maximum effect. There are plenty of famous marketing campaigns that might give you some inspiration!
5. Find a target audience, but don’t discriminate or marginalize
As part of your campaign strategy, think about who you are pitching to. This might be a particular group of students, such as those who are dissatisfied with a certain aspect of how the school is run, or those seeking funding or another particular need. Tailor your material to appeal to this group of people.
Steer away from attracting groups of people based on diversity factors, such as sexuality, gender or race. This is not only discriminatory, but it will also work against you in terms of your reputation and voter preference. The school will certainly not allow it either.
Finally, run your campaign with integrity. By all means, talk about your opponents and point out how you are different, better, and what you can offer that they can’t, but avoid slandering or using abusive or hateful language. Ensure your professionalism stands out to everyone that you talk to.
6. Create your marketing materials
The next step is to create marketing materials. This will focus on a logo (like the slogan, keep it relevant, simple and memorable) and include flyers, posters, images for use online, rosettes, banners, fonts, and maybe even a marketing plan as part of the overall campaign strategy.
Good posters and other marketing materials need to be crisp, high quality and consistent. They must also feature your name prominently, so people know who you are (consider using your photo too).
It is easier than ever before to create professional-looking marketing materials (you may have someone in your team who can do it), so it is worth the time and effort to have these produced professionally to ensure your campaign stands out in the right way. Just remember to keep it within your student budget!
7. Advertise on campus and online
Advertise everywhere. Post flyers and posters wherever you are allowed to on campus, ensuring maximum visibility in areas where there is a lot of traffic. See if you are allowed to advertise in local stores or on public transport.
Another critical factor to an effective student council campaign is your online presence. Set up social media accounts to encourage prospective voters to connect with you, like your posts, and engage with updates. Ensure you regularly and consistently post to these social media accounts as this will drive further engagement and really help you raise your profile as a candidate.
8. Look at ways to stand out from the crowd
Handing out flyers and using social media is a great start, but every other candidate will be doing the same. Ask yourself and your team, “What can we do differently?”. This might include setting up a YouTube Channel, virtual Q&A sessions, or creating a viral video that features your campaign.
Whatever different campaign ideas you decide to implement, ensure they are fair, ethical and not liable to cause offence or shock to others.
9. Interact with students
A critical element to any campaign is to get out there and speak to the voters. Mix with them, ask them questions and understand what they want from the student council (or the role you are being voted for at least).
Voters will appreciate a candidate who takes the time to listen to them. Follow through on any commitments you make to the voters and show an interest in what they have to say, even if you might not agree with it.
10. Prepare your campaign speech and practice your presentation
A critical element of all student council campaigns is candidacy speeches and presentations. These are understandably daunting, especially if you are not used to presenting in front of large groups of people. Nevertheless, these speeches can make or break your campaign, so it pays to take time to get them right.
The first thing to do is create a catchy, witty and informative presentation. Focus on consistent messaging, including what you have learned from talking to students and what you promise to do if you are elected. Ensure this is relatable to the student body in general, as well as to any more specific target audiences.
Understand how long you have to present and what you can and cannot do (for example, are you asked to prepare slides or is it just a verbal presentation?). Think about debate points and questions that might come up. You might also need to question your fellow candidates, so it’s important to have questions prepared on their own campaign and responses to what you think they might challenge you on.
Research and prepare techniques on how to craft an effective presentation. Of particular use to student council candidates would be the element of effective preparation and rehearsal, storytelling, using passion and emotion to get people onside, and pausing for dramatic effect after you have made key points.
Whatever you do, practice the speech and get feedback from your team and close friends so you can fine tune your style and the presentation contents or structure.
Running for a role in the student council is beneficial and rewarding, as it allows you to gain real-life experience and to develop new skills. It can also be very competitive. The above tips might seem like a lot to undertake, but really, they can be focused on three key areas which can make a huge difference to your chances of success:
- Formulate a student council campaign strategy
- Consistency in all that you say, do, and publish
- Knowing and listening to your voters
Of course, if your campaign is a success, then the real hard work begins. Ensure you commit to everything you have promised. Leaving a positive legacy after you leave the student council role is essential and will give you plenty of great examples in behavioral interviews for jobs. Good luck!
Are you considering joining the student council? What’s your plan of action for your campaign? Let us know any tips you have in the comments below!
This is an updated version of an article originally published on 19 June 2015.