Amid the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the already tumultuous season of Homecoming elections became more intense as campaign managers and their nominees scrambled to create a strong presence on a socially-distanced campus.
“With COVID-19 guidelines in place this year, there is no more in-person campaigning,” said Anna Hall, manager for a Mr. Ole Miss campaign.
Rather than stickering on Business Row or hosting meet-and-greets, campaign managers organized virtual events instead. This includes popping in on Greek chapters’ virtual meetings, making frequent phone calls, creating and posting graphics on social media, and FaceTiming potential voters.
“Social media strategy is incredibly important in this era of all-virtual campaigning,” said Hall. “I monitor social media engagements every day and spend a majority of my time planning what posts are coming later on.”
Hall is no stranger to the world of Ole Miss student elections. As both a Public Policy Leadership major and a veteran manager, she knows the ins and outs of the process, as well as what strategies work best.
“In the fall of my sophomore year, I ran my first campaign because one of my good friends wanted to run for Sophomore Maid,” said Hall. “Since then, I have run four more campaigns and I still get a rush every time. No experience at Ole Miss has been more rewarding or formed better friendships than running campaigns.”
Faye Michelle, manager for a Homecoming King campaign, agreed.
“Being able to be a part of the behind-the-scenes work of a campaign excites me,” she said.
Michelle has also worked several previous campaigns, but was never in the role of manager until this year.
“I helped campaign for candidates who have won in the past, so I was able to see what goes into making a successful campaign,” said Michelle. “I wanted to take what I have learned in the past campaigns and make it even better with this one.”
Campaign managers must be relentless and devoted to the candidate and their mission. For Hall and Michelle, that devotion stems from their passion for student elections.
“To me, student elections represent a microcosm of American democracy,” Hall explained. “The idea that students get to participate in a democratic process on campus will hopefully help them to be more mindful of civic engagement and democratic participation off-campus.”
“Elections show how Ole Miss bases itself on being a united community,” said Michelle. “Having these elections also allow the students to have another way of making their vote count. It’s a way for students to elect who they believe is a representation of them. It allows the University to showcase students who have made an impact on the people, the campus, and the community.”
Managers coordinate with videographers to create captivating ads for running candidates. Videographer Richard Springer works with his client’s campaign manager to set up filming and market the video. This year, however, has its fair share of obstacles, but none that scare Springer.
“Producing campaign videos is, like everything else now, quite different this year,” he said. “Fix groups are limited to ten total people, and both on-and-off-camera people have to wear masks when within six feet. For me, the main issue this creates deals with audio pick-up being muffled by the masks, and the viewers cannot see the speaker’s lips. But, once the draft is finished, I send it to the candidate’s team to make changes and produce the final version.”
Amid the campaigning, creating, and curating, managers have another important role: coordinating with their candidate.
“[The candidates] already have a lot of things to worry about, including fears about what their fellow students think of them or say about them,” said Hall. “The campaign manager should always be a calming presence who helps the candidate to relax and just have fun.”
As expected with this unique year, it can be hard to maintain morale. The amount of stress and uncertainty can create a difficult environment to work in. But for Michelle, it is all about attitude.
“Being a manager allows for you to set the tone of how you want the campaign to be executed,” said Michelle. “Start it off in a fun way, and it will be enjoyable for everyone.”
Homecoming elections will be held virtually. Included on the ballot will be nominees for Mr. and Miss Ole Miss, Homecoming King and Queen, Campus Favorites, and Maids. Elections will be held tomorrow, September 29 with results announced on October 1. To cast your vote, log on to your myOleMiss and click on “Vote in Student Elections” under the “Get Involved” tab.