Campaign Tips

Congratulations for running- or thinking about running- for an elected position at York University! At the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development (SCLD), we want you to get the most out of your campaign experience. We have prepared tips and guidelines to ensure your campaign is successful according to campaign protocol! We have a saying here at SCLD, too- “You might not win, but you can’t lose.”   

But before you head off on the campaign trail, remember these three things: 

1. Know the rules.
2. Know the rules.
3. Know the rules.

It may sound simple, but not knowing the rules could harm your campaign, cost you money and even disqualify you from running in your selected election. It is your responsibility to know what is and isn’t allowed throughout your campaign. The information is readily available so “not knowing” is not an excuse if you get caught breaking election rules.

Start by knowing who the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) is and what hours they keep. That way, if you want to do something out of the ordinary or something you don’t see covered in the election rules, you can ask your CRO before you do it. 

You might also want to talk to your professors and let them know you are running in a student election. Let them know that you might miss or be late for a class since you don’t always control the schedule of candidate events.

What Works 

The Essentials

1. Prepare

  • Have a clear platform: who you are, what you stand for, why you’re running and why you’d be a good choice for the position. Announce it to the people closest to you first.
  • Create small handouts with your website address, email contact, your name and face. Hand them out to everybody you speak to. Encourage them to find out more.

2. Network

  • Use your networks of friends and acquaintances.
  • Get feedback. Ask people what changes they would like to see and listen to their solutions.
  • Ask for help. Ask people to tell people. Ask them to invite you to events, meetings and campus events. Be present.   

3. Be Involved

  • Attend meetings and events for the clubs, groups that you’re already a part of to let people know you are a candidate and to discuss your platform. Don’t skip them because you are too busy campaigning. An important part of campaigning motivating those who know you best.
  • Attend every candidate’s forum/debate.

4. Create Opportunities

  • Go to meetings, social events, cultural events, etc. that you might not normally attend. Have organizers and leaders introduce you to as many people as they can.
  • Talk to people who know lots of people.
  • No matter the attendance, take every chance to hone your message and speak to motivated students. If they attend a meeting, they are likely to vote. Even if they are opposed to your candidacy, you may at least neutralize them so they won’t actively campaign against you.

5. Visit Classrooms/Lecture Halls

  • You must get permission from the professor/instructor of whose class you will be speaking and you need to be very brief- five minutes maximum. Arrive early or wait until a designated break time in the class- never interrupt the professor/instructor.
  • Be succinct, genuine, and encourage participation and engagement (voting etc.).
  • Practice making a few important points in under a minute- your Elevator Pitch.  
  • Repeat your name as often as you can so voters can attach your name and face to your platform.

6. Reach Out To The Media

  • Talking to the media is free. But you must be confident in your platform. York University has a lot of campus publications- reach out and get coverage!
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.
  • Send media releases. Let them know where you’ll be and who you’ll be talking to. If possible, use questions they ask to reiterate the main planks of your campaign but don’t stretch things too far. If they ask what your favourite ice cream flavour is, don’t use it as an opportunity to condemn, for example, the tax on textbooks. 

7. Respond To Criticism

  • Some people are not going to agree with what you say or how you say it. The best way to respond to criticism is to be diplomatic and polite – even if they are neither. You are more likely to gain respect if people see you remain calm. You can practice this with a friend who can play the role of an aggressive opponent.
  • Use language that will diffuse a tense situation such as:
    •  “I respect your opinion on the issue, I simply don’t share it.”
    • “You are entitled to disagree with me.”
    • “Let’s focus on ideas.”
    • “The voters will decide whose right on this.”
  • Do not attack anyone, suggest ulterior motives or comment on who they know, how they look or their level of intelligence. Stick to the issue. Debate the pros and cons of the position being considered.


The Good

1. A Functional Website

  • Create something clean and easy to navigate so voters can find out who you are, what you stand for, why you’re running and why you’d be a good choice for the position.
  • Use the same few points you make when speaking in classroom and meeting for your icons. Be consistent.
  • Use a good picture of you up front. Include other pictures of you at a variety of campus events and with other York students.
  • List contact information that is set up for the election. Don’t use your regular personal email.
  • Create and update your schedule of election appearances and pictures of where you’ve been.
  • Advertise, via social media, where you will be in the days leading up to an event. Check-in when you get there and follow up when the event is over. 

2. Effective Postering/Banners

Remember: Don’t count on posters doing the job for you. Most people are so bombarded with posters they don’t actually “see” them. It’s called “poster blindness.”

  • Ensure your poster doesn’t overwhelm the voter. Its purpose is to allow for name and face recognition.
  • Create a memorable slogan. Be concise (e.g., “Make it better.” “Students want change.” “Let’s stay on track.”)
  • Make sure your references (including acronyms) are well known and that your language is inclusive and inoffensive.
  • If you use a photo, make it a good, professional-looking one. There is nothing wrong with looking the best that you can.
  • Use bright colours and fonts that are easily read at a distance (e.g., yellow or gold lettering on white paper, cursive fonts, illegible handwritten text, etc.)
  • Avoid overcrowding your poster/banner with information that the voter likely won’t remember.
  • It’s all about appearance. What stands out? What will reach the maximum number of potential voters?

3. Advertise in the Campus Press

  • It will reach motivated voters. People who pay attention to the paper vote.
  • Make sure that your ad doesn’t try to do too much: just your name, face, and your easy to remember website URL.
  • Think beyond The Excalibur during your campaign; college papers are cheaper and may reach a different audience.

Again: make sure that you are allowed to use these devices. Check the rules. Ask the CRO beforehand. Get their decision in writing if you have any doubt. 


Election Guidelines

Poster Placement

  • Election posters may be placed on regular bulletin boards during the campaign. Please note that all bulletin boards are generally cleaned once a week. To determine which night materials are removed, check the date listed in the upper left hand corner of the board. In Central Square/Curtis Lecture Hall, boards are usually cleared on Sunday evenings.
  • Posters may also be placed on walls during the period before voting begins.
  • Posters may not be placed on ceilings, windows, fire doors, elevators/elevator doors, fire stairways, exit doors, inside classrooms or computer labs and ceiling vents. These are all prohibited locations.

NOTE: The Colleges and Faculties (Calumet, Founders, McLaughlin, New, Norman Bethune, Stong, Vanier, Winters and Schulich, Osgoode, FES) only permit posters to be placed on bulletin boards and staff will remove posters not placed on bulletin boards. Posters may also be removed from dining halls in the event of a special function.

Use of Banners

  • Banners are permitted. They must meet University fire-code standards (approved material available in the Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development -- SC&LD, S172 Ross Building, 416-736-5144).
  • Permission for banners in the central complex of the University (Central Square and Curtis Lecture Halls) must be obtained from SC&LD.
  • Permission for banners in the colleges should be obtained through the Office of the Master.
  • No banners or posters permitted in the Vari Hall Rotunda.
  • Banners are permitted to hang from the ceiling in Central Square only if they are secured with string to the support beams of the drop ceiling (please consult with the CRO before hanging such banners).
  • Banners cannot hang below the bottom of the black trim and must not exceed 10 feet in length, top to bottom, and 36 inches in width. You must respect the present location of currently hanging banners, and banners that have gone up before yours.

Use of Tape

  • Masking Tape is the preferred tape for mounting posters in most areas.
  • Silver Duct Tape is only permissible in the East Bear Pit on the concrete walls.
  • Other tapes (e.g. double backed carpet tape or packing tape) are not permitted due to the damage that is caused.

Use of East Bear Pit Area

  • Only the East Bear Pit Area in Central Square may be used for larger signs. Due to special club programming in the East Bear Pit signs may not be hung from the ceilings – they may be placed against the concrete walls.
  • The Chief Returning Officer, in conjunction with SC&LD, will be responsible for rationing any space in the East Bear Pit should such space be under pressure from competing interests/candidates.

Posters and Emergency Equipment

  • No posters may cover fire hose cabinets, fire alarm pull stations, or exit signs. Repeat offenders may be subject to disciplinary action under Presidential Regulations 2 & 3 (Conduct of Students at York University). 

Poster Location

  • Signs/Posters (rather than banners) should not be posted on the black trim above the Central Square windows, on Building Directory Boards or official bulletin boards, on audio visual screens or projection booth windows, on TV monitors, in private areas, glass surfaces, doors, store windows or in the Toronto Dominion Green Machine Centre.

Signs in Classrooms

  • No signs in classrooms are permitted. University staff will remove signs in classrooms and other prohibited areas. Candidates will be billed for this cleanup (the charges may be placed on your student account.)

Removal of Campaign Materials

  • Immediately following the close of voting, candidates are required to remove all of their campaign material from all the notice boards and corridors. It is particularly important that signs mounted in hard to reach locations be removed.

Please note: Candidates will be charged for the removal of all posters/ banners/ flyers that are not taken down by the deadline. Facilities will charge $25.00 per hour with a minimum 6 hour charge.