How To Become Student Union President
SPOILER ALET: This was a single email reply to a student in 2018 interested in leading & he successfully secured the role as Student Union President as well as being told he, “had one of the highest voting counts/percentage across all the campuses .”
It’s emotional-intelligence, leadership & hard-work in action.
My 1st Monday after leaving my full-time job to start running Campus Consultancy I jumped in the car & drove 90-minutes to speak to a group of students from regional areas at the Macpherson Smith Rural Foundation Leadership Camp.
After speaking to these students, several followed up for conversations.
One was a student we'll call S.
S reached out to me asking for advice on how to run for student President.
This is what I told him: (copy & paste from the email word for word).
(1) Be very clear on why you want to be President.
What are your top 3-5 reasons?
(2) Leadership is about providing value and serving your members.
People will vote for you (assuming it's a vote) if you can provide more value than anyone else. What are your 3 unique strengths (or unfair advantages) that make you the best possible choice?
(3) Value comes in lots of forms, but primarily by either (A) Solving Problems, (B) Realising Ambitions.
After all, decision making is driven biologically by PAIN & PLEASURE aka Problems & Ambitions
Therefore, I would take the time to get to know students intimately by asking them about the problems they face and the ambitions they strive for. A framework I use is, "What do you want to achieve by the end of next year?" [ambitions] and "What do you believe might stop you from achieving that?" [problems]
What are the top 5 problems that you want to help 'fix' as President?
What are the top 5 ambitions you want to help students achieve?
(4) How are you the best person to serve?
Once you have examples of real students with real P&As, I'd be putting a case together for how you are the best person to serve them. What events/services are you going to run to solve/reach the P&As, what products are you going to promote, launch etc.
What are the 5 most beneficial events you've ever attending?
What are the top 3 SKILLS/MINDSETS/Pieces of new KNOWLEDGE that you got from those events?
What are the 5 most beneficial products that you've purchased in your student lifetime? What benefits do those products give you? How can you provide new products to students to help them alleviate problems or reach their ambitions?
(5) Once you've done this self-reflection and research, you need to build a team to help you campaign.
I'd be aiming for 5-10 close, trusted people who have widely different skills (project management, marketing, communications, design etc.) and working backwards from the date that the election is and counting the days.
How many days is it?
Say it's 50. You need to be doing 1 thing every day that is new and valuable to show people why they should vote for you. This should then be shared on social media (90% on Facebook).
Don't just brag, but split content into:
(1) Share Wins
(2) Educate - share your knowledge,
(3) Collaborate - interview key people on campus,
(4) Manage Up - show that you're working with staff,
(5) Inspire - share your vision and wisdom,
(6) Testimonial - have friends on camera or in quotes say why they'd vote for you.
Have your team help you by taking photos, teeing up interviews, speaking with students, doing email/facebook outreach, speaking with community businesses about how you can create win-wins etc.
(6) Be real. How much, in dollars, is being President worth to you?
If I could charge you $X and you'd be President (by magic) what's your limit.
I bet it's more than $5, but less than $100,000. So what is it?
Say it's $500. For $500 you would, but for $600 you wouldn't. OK, then you should spend $499 on Facebook ads (targeted to your uni), on coffees (with staff/students/stakeholders), and on books to level up your chance of getting it.
(7) Mindset is everything.
From the second you read this email you need to believe, if you think you would be a good fit and can genuinely help people, that you are the person for the job.
You are going to be President.
You have to KNOW that, and then work backwards from there.
So what happened?
I messaged him 2-months later…
He got it.
President of his Student Union.
What made the difference?
Here’s what he said:
"The thing that stood out the most was the theme of, "How bad do you want this?". It was pretty consistent with what you said & everything else I've read or listened to.
Mindset was key. I definitely had days where it got me a bit because I hadn't created any content leading up to voting closing.
I went with a theme. Mine was <ANONYMOUS THEME>. I think the relatability helped. We're a small campus. I was just having fun with it. Bought a t shirt that said, “Vote for S.” Made a couple videos, one being me fixing the <ANONYMOUS ITEM> that's been broken for years. Then at the end of the video, the saxophone from Baker Street starts playing and flames explode around the "Vote for S" logo.
I did a "Like and tag a mate to win this <ANONYMOUS ITEM>.” Worked wonders. Got a heap of responses.
Budget was $100. I spent $30 on the shirt. $35 on Facebook ads. $3.50 on <ANONYMOUS ITEM>.
Everything you said really helped. It was systematic in a language I could understand. I didn't get around to doing everything but I had so many ideas flowing. Now it's time for me to put it into action.
When I got the phone call from Sydney to congratulate me, they informed me that whatever we did really encouraged people to vote.
We had one of the highest voting counts/percentage (not sure which exactly) across all the campuses.