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What are Talking Points?

A speaker during a meeting usually has talking points they want to cover.
Radio talk shows usually have a list of talking points to cover each program.
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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2014
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Talking points are suggestions given to different campaign and political party operatives as points that are thought to resonate soundly with constituents and present a candidate or issue in a favorable way. They may be given to staff members or even those independent of, but sympathetic to, a certain political philosophy. These points give individuals the ability to stay on a focused message, but they are often criticized as being nothing more than "marching orders" for those who cannot come up with their own ideas.

The benefits of talking points are that they keep a focused message in the forefront for the audience. The news media, for example, can only report on what people are talking about, so if their sources are all talking about the same things, then that is naturally what gets reported. As a result, it can be the single most effective way to frame a debate.

Many times, these points are distributed through what is known as a talking points memo. These memos may be distributed on a daily or weekly basis, depending on how fast a situation is developing. A memo may address one issue or several, usually depending on the political climate at the time and what is dominating the news cycle.

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The rules of what can go into a memo are varied and will mainly depend on the author. It may offer general guidelines on what to discuss and how to discuss it, or it may get much more specific. In fact, some may even dictate which phrases and terms to use when dealing with the media.

While talking points may be a sound public relations strategy, many may wonder if they even exist. Many political parties, presidential administrations and other such organizations deny giving their operatives rules for interviews. For those who want to truly judge that, however, the key is to watch the news and political talk shows. If different people arguing the same basic philosophy seem to be using the same arguments and same phrases, it is probably because this strategy was employed.

Some argue that these suggestions can make for a boring interview because they do not give the person being interviewed a true chance to let his or her personality show. If an interviewer suspects the answers are being aided by memos and wishes to illicit more off-the-cuff comments, it is that interviewer's responsibility to intervene, such as by asking unusual questions or pressing for further details.

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MrsPramm
Post 3

@Mor - To me, it's not just the politicians who have failed us, it's the media. The news ought to cover everything and to do it in an unbiased way. But an unbiased news organisation is impossible to find these days and people basically insulate themselves in a culture of whatever political party they happen to belong to.

If the news was really about getting to the truth of the matter, it wouldn't have the tremendous bias it has at the moment and we would be able to really figure out who we agree with, rather than being shepherded in one direction or another with talking points and other manipulations.

Mor
Post 2

@pastanaga - Unfortunately it becomes a kind of race and whoever looks the best is going to win. I imagine even if politicians start out idealistic, it's difficult to remain that way, since politics is such a numbers game and the person who manages to get the most numbers is going to win.

There are a lot of people out there who are no politically savvy and who just watch the political news around elections and listen to the sound bites. They don't care about foreign policy. They only care about who says something about job creation the most passionately.

pastanaga
Post 1

It really annoys me the way that politics play out in the public sphere these days. I mean it just seems so artificial that they basically decide what they are going to push and then stick to that line.

Why can't we just have people out there who really believe in acting a kind of way and are intelligent enough to have read up on most of the major concerns and form a plan and opinion on them? Developing talking points just reeks of them trying to manipulate the public by only talking about things that make them look good, when it should be up to the public to decide on whether or not they fit the job well enough.

This is why you end up with people spouting things that don't even make sense, but have all the right buzz words attached to them.

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