It’s not a talking point. It’s the truth.
~ Doug Stamper, House of Cards
Politicians get a lot of flak for using talking points. They come to an interview or debate armed with specific positions and sound bites and steer the conversation accordingly. Some are better at finessing this than others.
This gives talking points a bad reputation as being manipulative. Unjustifiably so.
A dear friend and colleague, Deborah Shames (author of Out Front), stresses the importance of speaking with intention.
No matter what you’re doing, you first need to know beforehand what you hope to achieve. Whether you’re giving an elevator pitch, making an MCLE presentation to your local bar association, being interviewed on a talk show about your new book, or speaking with TMZ — Doesn’t matter.
Your talking points support your intention. Limit them to two or three. More than that, and you risk confusing your audience with too much information including some that’s off-point.
This doesn’t mean you need to repeat the same two to three sentences verbatim over and over again (unless you’re trying to make a point to a reporter that you’re not going to tell him anything further).
But it does mean you must make sure everything you say supports your talking points and furthers your goal. If it doesn’t fit, eliminate it. This is especially important when you’re dealing with limited attention span or air-time.
Does this mean talking points are part of someone’s “agenda”? Yes. At the end of the day, an “agenda” is nothing more or less than a ”goal” — what you hope to achieve.
Ultimately, your goal is to control perceptions — to convince and persuade, to control a story by telling your version first, to use words and phrases that shift the tone from negative to positive.
Once you know what you hope to achieve, crisp talking points keep you focused and get you there.
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