Talking points – also known as key messages – have gotten a bum rap. For many people, the term “talking points” is synonymous with stonewalling and lack of candor.
Politicians, in particular, are adept at the art of saying what they want to say, regardless of the question they’re asked. If they don’t like the question, they silently make up their own and answer it, making sure they get their messages across.
There are, however, some good and honorable uses of talking points. For one thing, they help the person being interviewed stay focused and on track. It often helps to condense what you want to say into a sentence or two, to make sure you communicate succinctly and effectively.
In this age of sound bites, thinking through a few key points you want to make prior to an interview with a reporter is a must.
Talking points also can help you avoid landmines that otherwise could come back to bite you later on. Of course, it becomes obvious when a person is only spouting talking points, so they need to be used carefully to provide guidance to the conversation rather than being the conversation exclusively.
Recently I helped a couple of my clients develop talking points for situations they were facing. Just the process of working through the messaging was useful because it generated discussion about not only what should be said – and not said – but how the words we ultimately chose would come across to others.
If your agency hasn’t prepared your clients by helping them determine what to say and how to say it, beware that interviews can and sometimes do backfire, and the consequences may be far-reaching and unpleasant.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.