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The Hot Seat: Jay Malpass-Clark (Leeds Beckett SU)

Wednesday 17-02-2016 - 09:00

Leeds Beckett Students' Union and Leeds University Union have run a successful campaign on voter registration that has won the CIPR Pride Award for Not for Profit Campaigns. Jay Malpass-Clark, Students’ Union President at Leeds Beckett Students’ Union, tells us more…

What did the ‘Give a XXXX, Give an X’ campaign aim to achieve?

Our aim, quite simply, was to get 75 per cent of students in Leeds registered on the electoral roll in time for the general election, to increase voter turnout amongst students by 10 per cent, and to create a conversation amongst Leeds’ students about politics in the build up to the general election.

While Leeds’ ‘Youth turn-out’ in the 2010 election stood at 64 per cent compared to 44 per cent nationally, this was a number that we wanted to see grow. With over 100,000 students in Leeds, this demographic accounts for almost 25 per cent of the city’s total voting population; it’s a significant figure and we had the opportunity to make a big difference.

How did you go about achieving that aim?

When the campaign first launched back in February 2015 we were lucky enough to have successfully bid for funding from NUS which enabled us to run a campaign like no other we’d experienced before. There were clear challenges, not least to understand why many students don’t vote. We used insight gathered from our city-wide ‘What Students’ Want’ study to inform our messaging, and observational research on the campuses revealed that: many students felt that their votes didn’t make a difference; that politicians don’t speak to or for young voters; or that they didn’t know enough about it. We utilised the electoral roll from the local electoral services office to establish how many students had already registered and then targeted those who hadn’t.

Having gained an understanding of the target audience, we worked to combat these challenges through the Give A XXXX, Give An X campaign.

Our strategy was based around mass exposure and high frequency; ensuring that students could not get far without seeing the GiveAnX logo or encountering its messages.

Numerous channels were used to get the campaign message across:

  • A website was set up (www.giveanx.co.uk): Phase one provided a redirect to the government registration portal. Phase two provided students with all the information they needed to vote.
  • Posters went up in every toilet on all university sites communicating the message of not “flushing” away your vote.
  • Full height branded boards were located in every high footfall location across campus.
  • Videos were created to create a buzz across social media.
  • Students were engaged in conversation by two teams of voter registration student staff over a two month period and encouraged to register on the electoral roll. 12,000 leaflets were handed out during this time.
  • Social media communicated the message including “like&share” competitions to push it further. Photos of students pledging why they would be giving an X were shared widely across facebook.
  • We even had every ticket gate in Leeds City Station branded up with Give An X messages… that is one of the busiest train stations outside of London!

How successful has the campaign proved to be?

Incredibly! We've reissued the campaign a number of times since it ran initially last year and every time the hits on the campaign website go through the roof.​

We’re still waiting for the exact numbers from NUS and the Cabinet Office who hold the data on how many people clicked through and completed registration but there are some figures that we know already:

  • 22,915 more people registered to vote in Leeds in 2015 than in 2010.
  • In the key Leeds North-West constituency where most students live, voter turnout was 70 per cent - almost 5 per cent above the national average.
  • Website traffic of 26,129 page views from 15 March to 7 May.
  • Average footfall through Leeds City Train Station is 3,067,553 so over 3 million exposures to our messages.
  • 600 conversations with students on one single day of Give An X.
  • Shortlisted for NUS Campaign of the Year.
  • Winner of the CIPR PRide Award: Not for Profit Campaign.

Where does the campaign go from here?

Well, next steps are very much at the forefront of our minds right now. Here at Leeds Beckett we have secured additional funding that will allow us to see the campaign through to the end of this academic year. With local and PCC elections coming up and a potential EU Referendum, it is vital that our students are registered.

Long term, we have already started talks with our University about embedding voter registration within their student enrolment processes and hope for this to be in place for September 2016 but that’s not necessarily the end for Give A XXXX, Give An X as we really want to keep the conversation going and get students talking about the issues that affect them and their place in national politics throughout the year.

How important is it that students are registered to vote?

It is vital. Changes are happening every day of every year that affect our students and they really can make a difference. Hundreds of our students turned out during the campaign to tell us why they would be Giving An X and it is clear that they “get it” but young people nowadays get a worse deal because not enough of them stand up to be counted. This has led to our generation carrying more debt on our shoulders that our parents and grandparents before us. It may not seem like it but every single vote really does count and impacts our lives and our futures.

What advice would you have for other SUs running similar campaigns?

Collaborate… with everyone! Funding and resource obviously go a long way to making your campaign large and visible but we would have been nowhere without the support of other groups. Leeds SUs Working Together, our collaborative working group of colleges and universities in Leeds, came together to make the most of this campaign. Get in touch with your local council electoral services office as they may be able to tell you where to focus your efforts in your student communities. Make sure to get your university on board to help spread the message far and wide and finally, develop a strong and distinctive identity for your campaign.

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