The platform statement

Say the right things | When electioneering | I trust I can rely on your vote
-Radiohead, Electioneering

I’ve waited to actually publicize my blog until I had more than one “about me” type post. You know, actual content. They say you should blog about things that you know; I know associations. In particular, library associations. Through a series of unfortunately timed situations, I’ve found myself an elected official on CLA executive council, an ex-officio on OCULA executive council, and an active member of the refreshingly executive-free PLG-GTA all at the same time. Consequently, I’ll probably have lots more to say about these experiences over time, but today, I’m inspired to write about crafting a platform statement when running for the executive council of the association that’s near and dear to you.

Without picking on anyone in particular, (because for real, this is a problem that is perennial and is not unique to any one association) I’ve noticed that far too many candidate platforms spend most of their (limited characters) talking about themselves and what a great experience it will be for them to “give back” to the association. Except, they’re not saying anything about what they hope to accomplish or how they’ll go about it. This is off-putting and leaves me scratching my head about who to choose, especially in absence of any option to destroy your ballot. Ahem.

Platform statements that are too inwardly focussed on the candidate only serve to perpetuate the cult of personality/popularity contest that these elections are so commonly derided as. Furthermore, it serves to further reiterate the commonly held view that associations are really nothing more than exclusive clubs for those “in the know”.

A substantive platform statement should include the following:

  • A very brief introduction to you. Your job title, where you work and area of focus/research is usually enough for me to know about your work history. If you must, post a link to an online CV.
  • A statement about your previous experience with the association and why you feel this particular position is right for you and your skill set. This will include evidence of understanding what the role you are running for entails.
  • Something about your unique perspective and what that will bring to the table that is perhaps missing, or hasn’t been sufficiently represented in the recent association activity.
  • There should be evidence of understanding the goals and purpose of the association, examples of activities or initiatives you are passionate about, would like to pursue further, or new initiatives you hope to lead.
  • If there’s something broken about the association that you would like to help fix, talk about it. Acknowledge it. Inspire folks to vote for you because they think you’ll do a good job.
  • Keep it brief. Time and again, I’ve seen ridiculously long statements that I actually don’t even know how they made the cut. There’s normally a character limit for a good reason – stick to it. And, a note to associations, don’t let people submit platforms over the limit either, it’s not fair to those who tried to be succinct and honestly, they are a drag to read.

Associations really are what we make them. A strong and motivated executive council makes a world of difference to the quality of an associations activity and output. Alternatively, an exec can toe the line, not rock the boat, and look really impressive on someone’s annual report as evidence of “service to the profession”. I posit that unless you are rocking the boat, you are not serving your profession OR your association.


2 thoughts on “The platform statement

  1. amridley

    Welcome to the blogosphere. Great to have your voice online.

    Excellent advice re applying for executive association roles.

    Not sure I agree that the obligation is to rock the boat. Board members have responsibilities and accountabilities (under law) that require them to act in ways consistent with the organization mandate.

    However if rocking the board means being vigilant and constructively critical, I’m fully with you.

    Looking forward to future posts.


    1. incidentalacademic Post author

      Thanks, Mike! You are my first commenter … how literate of you. 😉

      Indeed, vigilance and constructive criticism is what I was getting at. Not long ago, I tweeted about the committee member who is a member in name only. Similarly on executive councils – one can be elected and serve, and not say a word except for “I agree”. It’s tedious and doesn’t move the organization forward. For a profession that espouses critical thinking as much as we do, I sure don’t see it in action often enough.


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