Can you answer the following question quickly, succinctly, and with zero hesitation?

“Why are you running for office?

It’s surprising how many candidates for local office don’t take the time to articulate and practice this message. Last year, a local community access television program broadcast a few days before the election hosted a parade of local candidates. Only half of them were able to answer that question.

Developing an issue profile is a great first step toward being able to clearly articulate your campaign message.

Elevator Pitch and Stump Speech

In our training, we recommend developing an elevator pitch and stump speech. The elevator pitch is a short (around 30 seconds) description of your motivations and qualifications to run for the office you’re seeking. A stump speech is a longer version of the elevator pitch that goes a layer deeper, articulating your position on key issues. You should be prepared to use either of these tools without hesitation. The elevator pitch can be memorized but maybe you’ll need to keep your stump speech (or notes) with you.

But what do those have to do with your issue profile? They are the articulation of your positions on key issues that your constituents care about.

The process we’ll cover in this post is designed to help you analyze the top three issues your campaign should focus on. Working to narrow down your top issue profile will allow you to build a campaign that is direct and issue focused. Focus on a simple and solutions based approach. Even complex issues must be presented in an understandable and digestible manner.

Pro Tip: Try to keep your answers to each question simple, short and concise. No more than 1 or 2 sentences should be used to answer any question, no matter how complex.

Here’s how to develop your issue profile…

YOUR Most Important Issues

Think about the three issues that are most important to you. Then, for each issue answer the following questions:

  • What are some of the prevailing solutions/plans for this issue?
  • What are some of your solutions/plans for this issue?

PUBLIC’s Most Important Issues

Next, think about the three issues that are most important to your constituents. Then, for each issue answer the same questions:

  • What are some of the prevailing solutions/plans for this issue?
  • What are some of your solutions/plans for this issue?

Your Background

Now you’ll think about three areas in which you have unique skill sets or specialized experience. For each area, answer the following questions:

  • How do these skills/experience assist your ability to solve or add value to the three issues most important to you?
  • How do these skills/experience assist your ability to solve or add value to the three issues most important to the public?

Narrow Down

It’s time to start narrowing down and prioritizing your list of issues. To do this, answer the following:

  • What issue most important to you do you also have the greatest skills/experience to bring about a solution?
  • What issue most important to the public do you also have the greatest skills/experience to bring about a solution?
  • Of the remaining issues, which do you also have the greatest skills/experience to bring about a solution? If your skill sets do not connect strongly with any of the reaming issues, which issue remaining is most important to the public?

Write Your Issue Profiles

Finally, in one or two sentences, explain your opinion/thoughts/solutions for each of the 3 prioritized issues from the previous step. Use these issue profiles to develop your stump speech and boil them down even further to write your elevator pitch.

Photo Credits

Tristan's closing stump speech

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