How to Run a Winning Campaign



    Standing in the Students’ Association’s elections is a fantastic opportunity to have your voice heard, make a real difference to the lives of Edinburgh’s 40,000 students, and gain valuable personal development skills.

    If you’re considering standing, check out the election pages on our website for an overview of the roles available, and once you’ve made your decision make sure you submit your nomination online before the deadline at 5pm on February 21st 2019. 

    Every student who stands will have their own unique perspective, shaped by their experiences and their values. Think about what you have to offer and what sets you apart from other candidates until you feel confident answering the question “Why should I vote for you?” 

    Your manifesto lets people know what you hope to achieve if elected, so you’ll need to articulate your vision for the university and a few key priorities. It can be tempting to include every good idea you have, but a long manifesto can be off-putting to voters, so try and keep things focused and group your points under themes to make the information easier to digest.


    a.    Consulting with students


    Keeping your own perspective at the heart of your manifesto will help it feel personal, but it’s important to remember that some students may have had different experiences to your own, and you should ensure your manifesto speaks to as wide a range of students as possible.

    You can talk to your friends, meet with current elected reps, and even do quick polls of the students in your classes - just try and get a good cross-section of the student population in terms of demographics, campus, and level of study.


    b.    Learning more about the Students’ Association and University


    Voters don’t expect candidates to know everything, but a solid understanding of how the Students’ Association and University function will help ensure your manifesto priorities are achievable and show voters that you’ve done your research.


    For some basic information about the student community, check out the University’s factsheet:


    For more information on the Students’ Association, check out our website and our strategic plan: We’re in the process of writing a new strategic plan, so if you’re elected you’ll have the opportunity to really shape the organisation going forwards.

    Your online profile is what students will see when they come to vote so it’s a great opportunity to engage potential voters who might have missed your campaign.
    You can edit your profile from the “Review Nominations” page of the election, and we’d really encourage you to personalise it with a photo, a short introduction to yourself and your manifesto, and maybe even a video.

    Hopefully your friends are already supporting you, particularly if you consulted with them when you created your manifesto, but if not now’s the time to get them on-board.

    There are lots of ways your friends can help, from helping to design your posters, to sharing your campaign on social media to let their friends know you’re running, and keeping you hydrated on the campaign trail.


    Play to people’s individual strengths and don’t be afraid to assign roles - it will help keep them focused and engaged during the campaigning period.

    Once you know what to say, you need to figure out how best to say it. A strategic approach will maximise your impact so rather than trying to run through your entire manifesto with every person you meet, think about which messages and manifesto points will resonate with particular groups of students.


    You could also build a narrative by focusing on different elements of your manifesto throughout the campaign, using short videos or social media graphics to highlight specific policies.


    a.    Creating campaign materials


    Most candidates will create some kind of campaign materials, generally posters and flyers. These can help get the message out there about your campaign while also providing key information like how to vote and when voting opens.

    As a candidate, you’ll have a budget (£90 if you’re a Sabbatical Officer candidate, or £30 if you’re running for another elected rep position) and you can’t spend more than this, so think carefully about how much campaigning you can realistically manage. You can also spend your campaigning budget on more unusual items like campaign t-shirts and badges.



    You can order printing directly through the election website and your campaign materials will be printed by the University who will email you when they’re ready to collect.


    You can also order printing online or through local print shops, but if you do that you’ll need to keep any receipts or invoices to claim back your expenses, and keep a track of your spending so you don’t exceed the limit for your role.


    Display sites

    There are specific locations around the University that you can use to display your posters - check out the election regulations for more detailed information: X.
    Some University buildings may allow you to display posters but this is at the discretion of staff, so check with them first to avoid your posters being taken down.
    If you’re putting posters up inside, pins or Blu Tac are great, but if they’re going up outside and you want them to last the week pop your poster onto a cardboard backing using glue or wallpaper paste, and attach them to lampposts and railings using cable ties.

    Some of the best poster locations will be hotly contested when campaigning starts, so consider turning up early to save yourself a good spot.



    b.    Making a campaign video


    Making a campaign video can be a fun and accessible way of sharing your manifesto and introducing yourself to voters. 


    You can create great quality videos on most phones, but if you want something a little more professional you can borrow recording equipment from the Library: 


    Whether you want something sincere and to the point, or a bit more light-hearted, our top tips for a great campaign video are to plan what you’re saying to cut down on rambling and use text to highlight key points.


    c.    Using social media


    Most of us use at least one social media platform, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat, and they’re a great way to get your campaign out there. Whether you set up a Facebook page to share your manifesto or are more about documenting your campaign journey on Instagram stories, the key is to produce the kind of content you would naturally share.


    “Tag yourself” memes, behind-the-scenes GIFs, and inspirational videos are more likely to get engagement than sharing your PDF manifesto every day, and they can have a genuine message too.


    d.    In-person campaigning


    Face-to-face campaigning can be tiring, but it’s the most effective way of campaigning, as people are more likely to vote if they feel like you have a genuine connection.
    There are lots of ways to campaign in-person from lecture shout-out and knocking on doors in halls, to chatting to people in your tutorials, outside the Library, and on the bus to KB. The key is to be focused: perfect your elevator pitch but don’t let it become robotic, ask students about their own experiences and what they’d like to change. 


    Your friends can also help but consider giving them a script to stick to so they don’t get lost half way through the conversation. You can also make sure you’re on hand in case students have more in-depth questions about you as a candidate or your campaign.


    Talking to lots of strangers in one go can be draining, particularly if you’re not a natural extrovert, so consider doing face-to-face campaigning in short bursts and switching to a more low-energy form of campaigning when you feel your enthusiasm dipping.


    e.    Using your networks


    Your existing networks of friends, classmates and society members are your biggest assets so don’t forget to use them. Self-promotion is cringe-y, but if you genuinely believe you’re the best person for the role there’s no shame in asking people you know to share a Facebook post or message their friends.
    You could even ask for five minutes at the start of a society event or club practice to do a shout-out about your campaign, and if they like you they could official endorse you which might be a big boost to your campaign (for guidance on society and club endorsements, check out the election regulations: X).
    Just make sure you thank everyone who helps you, whatever the result.

    Campaigning can be intense, but it’s also a once in a lifetime experience so don’t forget to have fun with it! 


    Those classic campaigning moments - the day 500 flyers got delivered to your flat, or when your friend gave you a piggy-back to put up a poster - are great to look back on, so take a break, grab a quick photo, and enjoy.


    Make sure you’re getting lots of rest and staying hydrated, particularly if the weather is good, and surround yourself with positive people who can give you a boost when you’re starting to lose momentum.



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