Why am I running for office?

Thinking about running for office?
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Congratulations! You are considering running for public office.

Why?

Well, that’s a question only you can answer.

Candidates who know why they are running usually win. But believe it or not, many candidates can’t articulate a compelling reason for running. Focus first on why you are running and then turn your attention to how you are going to win.

Thinking about running for office? Have a million questions about how to get started — and how to win? We’re here to help.

Keep reading for a few of the tips you’ll find in 101 Steps to Victory: A How-To Guide for First-Time Political Candidates. This free e-book outlines the 101 most important things a first-time candidate needs to know to keep their campaign on the path to victory. And check back with the Speakeasier blog in the days and weeks ahead for more of our 101 Steps to Victory.

Have a good reason to run.

The single most important factor in the success or failure of a campaign is the campaign’s message. Or, in other words: why are you running? The most important factor in creating a strong message is: do you believe it yourself? Are you passionate about it? If it doesn’t matter to you, it isn’t going to matter to anyone else. If this reason to run is connected to your life, it is stronger. If it is a broadly shared concern in your community, stronger still. If it is a problem people believe you can solve, even stronger.

So for example, “I am running for school board because great schools and teachers made a difference in my own life — and I know they can make a difference for thousands of other children in this community. As an educator I have helped thousands of kids succeed and on the school board I will bring this passion and experience to help tens of thousands more.” That’s a good start.

Something like “I want to serve” (and the many variations of “I just want to serve”), not so much. Honestly, most voters don’t really care about you. We care about our own families and our own kids. We are interested in you if it connects to how you can help us. So tell us how you can make a difference on an issue we care about.

Think it through.

“People tell me I should run. But I am not sure. What should I do?

The answer to this question is: if you are not sure, don’t run. There are many good ways to serve your community other than running for office. If you don’t want to speak in public, ask other people for money, give up family and personal time, and ask friends and strangers for help, then you should not run. Just say no. You will be happier.

Campaigns are not for everyone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. As political consultants, we talk with dozens of potential candidates every year. We always ask them, “Are you sure you want to do this?” If they hesitate at all, we decline to take the race and usually encourage them not to run.

Get your elevator pitch down.

If you are going to run, you must be able to explain your reason for running in a few sentences. We’ll get back to this — but you need to be able to explain again and again why you are running, who you are, and why your race matters. Start mastering this important step right now. Write down in 250 words why you are running and what you want to accomplish. (Please keep it for the history books or the scrap book. It will be valuable to you and maybe others someday.)

PRO TIP: Connect your “Why am I running?” statement to an experience that helps voters understand how you can turn your vision into reality. “You know, my own daughter was almost hit by a car right across the street so I want to make sure the city council installs crosswalks at key intersections so we can protect all our children walking home from school.”

Think you’re ready to run? Want to learn more? Download our Campaign Playbook to help you build a winning political campaign from the ground up.

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