Jul. 23, 2014

SA presidential elections highlight political campaign techniques

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March 21, 2014

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By now, most students are probably familiar with Student Assembly candidates’ campaign posters, slogans, photos and Facebook pages, used to garner support for each ticket.

The candidates in this year’s Student Assembly presidential election used various campaign strategies to spread their messages and to accumulate voter support.

Carlton Smith ’15 and Christopher Johnson ’15’s campaign primarily employed a word-of-mouth strategy. Smith forewent appointing an official campaign manager and assumed the role himself, explaining that he knew his schedule was flexible and that he was confident in the work he could produce.

Although the Smith and Johnson campaign emphasized getting its message out through more ground-based methods — like visiting hall councils, a performance by Smith’s acapella group Double Take, and attending campus group meetings — they maintained an online presence, including posting regular updates on both Facebook and Twitter accounts.

However, Smith said he believes the best approach to campaigning is to keep it personal and transparent, which can be hindered by aspects of social media.

“I’m very old fashioned,” Smith said. “I still have the belief that technology doesn’t reach out to a lot of people. Some people on this campus don’t have Facebooks or Twitters or anything. Taking the time to go meet them face-to-face eliminates that wall of transparency where they don’t know who’s behind the computer.”

Smith also emphasized that his campaign was fiscally conservative. He admits to having a more limited budget in comparison with the other tickets’ campaigns.

“I think we’ve made a great campaign effort here for people that have never run a campaign of this size before. Admittedly we did not have enough of the funds to buy all these fancy websites and things, but we worked with what we had,” Smith said. “I’m proud to say … we put our best foot forward.”

Henry Longley ’15 served as campaign manager for SA president and vice president candidates Trevor Parkes ’15 and Liz Hernandez ’15.  He cites a mix of both ground-based and social media strategies as driving their campaign efforts.

The Parkes and Hernandez campaign maintained a strong social media presence. The duo released several videos, including one based on comedian Zach Galifiniakis’ YouTube series “Between two Ferns.” Longley explained that every day the campaign was working to produce new material to engage and entertain voters.

“We want to have a dialogue with our voters and reach people that might not have heard of us,” Longley said. “We know that social media is a powerful tool to get both those things done. We understand that people want to be entertained when they are being advertised to.”

Longley also stressed the role of their supporters and their friend groups. The campaign asked supporters to spread the campaign’s message and to identify potential voters.

Parkes and Hernandez’s campaign implemented a method that was based off a military technique of constantly pushing forward in order to get their message across.

“It’s called rolling thunder … just continuing towards the target regardless of what’s happening,” Longley said. “[It’s] always just positive movement forward and it’s a tireless effort.”

Adam Enochs ’15 managed candidates Colin Danly ’15 and Kendall Lorenzen ’15’s campaign for the SA presidency and vice presidency, respectively. He explained that their campaign also used a mix of both social media and word-of-mouth, but that they chose to focus on emphasizing the two candidates’ experience.

“Our overall strategy has been getting out [Colin and Kendall’s] overall resume, trying to tell everybody how much experience they have, and just what makes them the perfect candidates based on what they’ve already done,” Enochs said.

The Danly and Lorenzen campaign also hosted a block party where several student groups performed, including Improv Theatre and Passing Notes. The idea for the block party came from Danly himself, and Enochs admits the concept made him nervous, but he was pleased with the outcome.

Enochs said he believes that one of the more unique factors of their campaign was their transparency.

“We have nothing to cover up, we just have everything to show —  that might be the differentiating factor,” Enochs said.

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Madeline Bielski

Madeline Bielski

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