Problem or Solution? Which Comes First?

In our I&E Planning Workgroup we’re having a debate: Which should come first in our key messages, the problem or the solution? On the one hand, having the problem come first catches the elected official’s attention, reminds them of the urgency of the issue, and reminds them that the problem of tobacco is not solved. However, leading with the problem means you end the meeting with the solution. This means you end on a happy note, letting the elected official feel like the problem is solved by your solution. Some people worry that this may make the elected official feel like there is no need to take action.

Other folks argue for starting with the solution. It starts the meeting off on a nice and friendly tone and makes the elected official more receptive to hearing what you have to say. After all, they hear endlessly, in meeting after meeting, all of the many things that are wrong with the state. Why should we just be like that? Starting with the solution is a new way to approach them. However, the concern is that you start the meeting off making the elected official feel like the issue is taken care of and doesn’t need their attention. But, by starting with the solution it means you get to end on the problem. You can end by bringing up all of the things still in tobacco control that urgently need their attention. This allows you to segue into asking them for their help at the close of the meeting.

It seems like there’s a strong argument on either side. What do you think? What do you do in your meetings with elected officials? What’s worked?

-Vanessa Marvin

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