You’ve seen this before maybe in the news or in the movies. A CEO or person of importance is speaking to the media in a press conference setting, poised and hitting all of the major points of an announcement. At least for real-life settings, you wonder how they remain so calm and on point? The answer is excellent media training and the use of effective talking points developed by a skilled pr team. Masterfully done talking points can instill confidence in the source or communicate intent clearly. Done poorly, they can sow doubt or create distrust between a brand and its audience. J.O. is here to help break down what effective talking points can do to help your brand communicate clearly and concisely with your audience.
What are talking points in public relations?
Talking points are an effective pr tool to help prepare a point of contact for media interviews and general communications. They can be used when there are major updates or product releases being announced or to help dispel rumors surrounding a company. More often people think of talking points being used in the external setting but they can also be used for internal communications when companies want to deliver news of new policies or to brief employees before public announcements. The main point of the talking point is to have a known company-wide position so that you are confident that everyone from the CEO to the boots on the ground can respond to questions in a concise and correct fashion.
How to Write Talking Points
Writing talking points often takes some practice in order to perfect. Since they are to be used by multiple sources you want to be sure that the key messages are clear and easily understood. Keeping company tone in mind is crucial as the speaker utilizing the points will be speaking on behalf of the company. The best way to start writing talking points is to create an outline to highlight your main points based on the order of importance or chronologically, based on your messaging needs. Drafting points in sentences with one message per bullet point will help organize your points. Identifying key data points to be included in your points at the beginning is helpful in your preparation.
The use of talking points is conversational at its root. When drafting talking points pretend you are having a conversation with a person versus writing for a technical audience. You want the points to be engaging while presenting your main message clearly. When you are done writing, practice the talking points out loud in front of a mirror. Ask yourself:
- Did certain words sound funny together?
- Did you present the information correctly?
- Could any of your talking points be taken out of context and misconstrued?
Two of our favorite phrases when discussing talking points are; “Practice makes perfect” and “Keep it simple, stupid.”
How To Use Talking Points for Interviews
So you’ve done the upfront work and written clear talking points. Now, how do you use those talking points to communicate your key messages? The best way to prepare for a media interview or speech is to practice! Talking points should be used as a frame of reference, not a script to follow by the letter. Your answers to questions should feel organic and with the proper preparation, you will come off confident and as a trusted source. This will help you from coming off too robotic or scripted with your responses.
Another way talking points can be used is to help keep facts and data organized so that you do not need to remember those off the top of your head. Talking points can also be used to return focus to the key messages you are there to deliver. Use them to redirect from potential arguments back to your prepared response. For more formal settings, it is ok to have one page of talking points with you to refer to. It shows the media that you want to convey the facts as best you can.
For internal communications, you want to ensure your team has the latest approved talking points handy for any responses to questions they might encounter. This means reducing the number of versions that are circulated so that misinformation isn’t in circulation. This is an easy way to help the success of delivering your key messages to the public.
What to Avoid in Developing Talking Points:
So what are some of the pitfalls you should avoid when drafting talking points? The length of your points should be concise. Try not to develop long paragraphs as they are hard to make feel personal and can be distracting during interviews and knock the speaker off track.
Including information or details that do not support your key message. It is easy to get caught up in the “every idea is important” way of thinking. This will clutter your message and ultimately hurt your credibility with the media and the public. To keep on the message, identify the key facts and edit down from there. Ask yourself, will this point take away from the bigger focus? If that answer is a “yes” consider removing it.
Not preparing those delivering the message with the appropriate supplemental information. This could be identifying the proper tone in which the points are to be delivered or outlets for additional information. By not providing a framework from beginning to end you risk having your talking points be subject to interpretation requiring you to clarify at a later date. This is just an extra step that can be avoided with the proper preparation.
So What is the (Talking) Point?
Caption: Media training can be an invaluable tool when preparing your team for an interview or discussion. It can help them understand what to expect and how to address questions using the talking points.
Be prepared. That is the name of the game. This starts with a clear identification of your key messages, tone, and an overall understanding of your public relations and marketing strategies. Practice. First to yourself and then with those sharing your talking points. Presenting talking points, especially to an unfriendly audience, can be intimidating. By vocalizing your points you can identify places for edits and spots for key data points, and instill confidence in the speaker. Support. Provide your team with the materials and training to help them succeed. Extend the power of your talking points and media efforts by providing supplemental and easily accessible information. By following our tips you will be able to master the craft of writing talking points!
Still, feel like you need some extra help? J.O. has years of PR experience to help you navigate all of your communications needs. Anything from press releases to media training and talking points, we can help you stay on message. Reach out to us at 817-335-0100 or here for information on our public relations services.