Talking Points: What are you talking about?

If you’ve ever worked with a public relations professional chances are you’ve heard the term talking points. Honestly we also like our FAQ documents. And yes, we are used to clients asking why they need these.

For some clients putting words onto paper seems like an exercise—and perhaps it is just that. When we exercise or practice in sports, trainers and coaches are looking for us to retain muscle memory. I think about my sons who throw shot and disc in track and field. They practice for hours to get the right stance, spin and throw. They do it over and over and over. Getting just the right form means the difference between placing and falling to the bottom of the pack.

Talking points are just the same. They are your practice round and game plan designed to:

Keep your story on message

Whether your company is announcing a merger, new product, new service or making a difficult announcement, leader often know what the story behind the decision is. When they decide to share the story, it can sometimes become muddled and difficult to follow if they haven’t outlined the message ahead of time. Go back to the sports analogy. Pro sports players prepare ahead for the game. Professional business leaders should do the same.

Keep your staff sharing that same message

Before anyone outside the company hears your news, have you told the people closest to you internally: leadership, their staff, clients, vendors and so on? Having a prepared set of talking points for key staff who need to share the story ensures everyone is saying the same thing you are telling to news reporters, for example.

Keep you comfortable

Talking points also can be a good security blanket to keep you comfortable. During news interviews, reporters often ask questions that take an interviewee off track. I’ve seen and heard it happen. When the news story appears the client says, they didn’t cover the story the way I wanted them to write it. Often the reason is because the client did not want to prepare by creating talking points and thinking through possible questions before the interview. When a client is well prepared, the interview and the story sound and read much talking their talking points.

Talking points keep everyone saying and hearing the same story on your big announcement. They allow your team to prepare to share your news as you’d expect and want them to practice and complete the game plan for your announcement.

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