Communications Workshop 1: Talking Points

Photo by Luke Redmond/FlickrCC
Photo by Luke Redmond/FlickrCC

Ever wonder why most politicians just repeat the same ol’ sentences over and over, regardless of what question they are being asked?

What they are doing is sticking to their talking points. And it’s a common, and very effective, communications strategy for controlling how people will understand your policy proposal or campaign objective.

What people who craft effective talking points know is that:

  • Most issues are big and complex, with many viewpoints. But you don’t want the public to be thinking about many viewpoints. Just one.
  • Your responsibility isn’t to educate everyone. It’s to promote one policy proposal.
  • If you repeat 3 or 4 talking points over and over, in a press release, interview or public statement, then that’s what gets printed. If you start talking about other things, then you lose control of what gets printed, and you leave the narrative up to the reporter or the audience.

So, if you are serious about getting a policy solution passed, you need to development four short talking points, and stick to them like glue.

Remember, don’t worry about telling the whole story, just your story. Before we start, a few key tips:
1. Keep it short.

2. Focus on your solution.
3. Avoid jargon – use simple language.
4. Keep it short.

Here’s a quick and easy way to develop your talking points. (And be strict about your word limits! The best talking points are short and sharp.)

Your # 1 Talking Point: What is Your Policy Proposal?

30 words or less.
Example: “This policy proposal would require developers of new residential properties in Morgantown to include biking and walking pathways instead of car parking capacity.”

Your #2 Talking Point: What is the urgent need for your policy?

50 words or less.
Example: “Chronic traffic jams and a lack of transportation options are crippling Morgantown’s ability to attract new residents and businesses. It’s also the #1 deterrent for students and young families, who are looking for places that encourage active lifestyles. Morgantown must evolve, to keep pace with other cities in the region.”

Your #3 Talking Point: How will your policy help fix that problem?

50 words or less.
Example: “Morgantown’s traffic problem will only be solved by shifting car trips to other modes. By requiring developers of residential properties to include biking and walking pathways instead of car parking, we provide the necessary infrastructure at no cost to the taxpayer, and also encourage behavior change in residents.”

Your #4 Talking Point: Why will this work when other efforts haven’t?

50 words or less.
Example: “Other efforts have put the onus of building biking and walking pathways on the city and the state, which have not been able to afford such investments. This new proposal would force the people that profit from the city’s population boom – the developers – to mitigate the traffic problems they are in part responsible for.”


If you haven’t done so already, take some time to sit down and write your talking points. And then use your talking points wherever you can – on your website, in blog posts, in press releases and in interviews with the media. Pass them on to your legislative supporters.

Although there are obviously many other important pieces to a successful policy campaign, developing and using consistent talking points will make your PR and communications effort a whole lot easier and more effective!

Remember:

      1. Keep it short.
      2. Focus on your solution.
      3. Avoid jargon – use simple language.
      4. Keep it short.

Hello, Jake.