Talking points are a staple of public relations. A bullet-point document that helps clients stay on message during interviews, every PR agency is adept at producing talking points for just about any situation.
In my experience, however, clients sometimes push back when they receive these documents.
There are various reasons for the push back. “I know what I want to say.” “I’ll make my own notes.” “I don’t like talking from bullets.” “This is just make-work designed to bump up billable hours.”
I want to challenge these objections and discuss the usefulness of talking points. They are of great value in many, many situations.
The Value of PR Agency Talking Points
- Keep you on message. This, of course, is the primary reason talking points are created but it’s worth repeating here. During the span of an interview, it’s easy to get distracted, sidetracked and moved away from the points your organization wants to make. Talking points are useful for bringing you back on message. You can just glance down at the last point you made before the conversation moved off track and start up again with the next bullet. This is useful in any situation where your messaging is critical to your PR strategy.
- Build consensus. Most clients don’t recognize this value right away, as it’s a by-product of the work of producing talking points. However, it is terribly important, particularly for large organizations. The process of writing talking points, sharing them with your team, editing and tweaking them to say exactly what you want, and ending up with broad buy-in assures that everyone is on the same page. It brings focus throughout the organization. This is an example of the journey itself having value.
- Allow for multiple spokespeople. This comes up with large organizations and with political campaigns. You have to get a message out or respond to something a competitor has said. If you have talking points ready, you can send out multiple spokespeople to the media all at once. Here, talking points are absolutely necessary as you want to make sure all your spokespeople are completely synced up. This can also hold true for large companies that need to make the same points in multiple markets.
- Maintain consistency over time. Talking points represent a written record of your messaging for a given campaign or interview. They also allow you to remain consistent in your messaging over time. That’s because when it comes time for the next campaign or series of interviews, you can go back to the prior talking points as a starting point for the next set. What you said in the past will drive what you say going forward, ensuring your organization’s messaging sounds cohesive and consistent. This will go a long way toward making it stick.
- Let you practice. It’s hard to rehearse for an interview if you don’t know what you want to say. Talking points represent a script in bullet-point format. Once armed with your talking points, practice is possible. You may also want a Q&A document, which anticipates the difficult questions you could be asked and provides bullet-point answers, which your PR agency should also provide. A little rehearsal beforehand, particularly if the topic is sensitive, will give you additional confidence and polish as you move forward to your actual interviews.
There are certainly other reasons why your PR agency might provide you with talking points. But the idea I want to get across is this: Open your mind to the talking points process. Your agency is doing this for good reasons. If you believed in your agency enough to hire it in the first place, give their talking points a shot.