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Wed, 24 Mar 2004 -- Media Matters No. 44
"Talking points": they're called that for a reason

You have worked hard to interest reporters in your work and they have started contacting you. But now, what do you say? Well, you pull out your talking points.

What are "talking points?"

They're brief, one- or two-sentence answers to basic questions that would be asked by anyone who wants to understand your work. They are easily memorized points about your project that you can use over and over to respond to media inquiries. They're useful because they let you quickly provide "the perfect response" to reporters - responses you have thought out and convey exactly what you want to say.

Having one or more sets of talking points makes it easier to respond to reporters when the opportunity presents itself.

Develop a set of talking points about each of your projects that might be of interest to the media. Talking points should:

-- be short and uncomplicated, phrased in everyday language that a 10-year-old would understand ("banana words" -- see Media Matters No. 20).

-- encapsulate the main points you want your audience -- the person who reads this newspaper, journal or sees the broadcast -- to remember.

-- be interesting enough so that reporters will want to quote them.

For example: if your project is on universal design, you may have basic points about: - What universal design is. - What we are doing about it. - Why universal design is important for everyone. - How the world would be a better place if universal design were adopted.

Now that you have covered the basics, add one or two points about your specific project.

In developing your talking points, you may want to turn to past issues of Media Matters. Remember to make your talking points newsworthy (see Media Matters No. 2, "Understanding the reporter's mindset"). Also remember that people get most of their news from local TV, so pay attention to the kinds of "talking points" that you hear on local TV news.

Once you have developed talking points, try them out on someone who ISN'T part of your project and doesn't know the issues you deal with. Using your "talking points," explain your project or research to them. Ask them to tell you what they learned -- see if they "got" the points you were making. If not, you need to revise your talking points to make your points clearer and simpler and more memorable.

Last, prioritize your points. If you only get to make one point, what would you want that one idea to be? Then make sure that EVERY time you get the opportunity to talk about your work, you always make that point.

The information in Media Matters No. 38 ("Make lists!" ) may be useful.

Don't wait until a reporter contacts you. The time to develop talking points is when you have a new piece of research or a new project -- or right now for your ongoing work.

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