Support Your Strategy with Themes, Messages and Talking Points

Article 3 min
Explore creating themes, messages and talking points that align to your strategy.

What Are Themes, Messages and Talking Points?

Themes are a unifying idea or intention that supports the narrative and is designed to provide guidance and continuity for messaging and related products. Themes link groups of messages together and are generally one to two words.

Messages support themes by delivering tailored information to a specific stakeholder or public and can also be tailored for delivery at a specific time, place and communication method. Messages are everywhere. They are used in every communication product and anytime you address your stakeholders and publics. Be intentional and purposeful with messages to ensure they properly communicate your command’s position in all three of the public affairs and communication strategy’s basic competencies (public information, command information, community engagement). Messages should be short and relevant, so that they are easily memorable.

Talking points, also referred to as secondary messages, are concise, releasable statements of fact within the limits of a command’s authority that provide support for your message and are relevant to your stakeholders. They should be interesting and useful pointes that related to the message that stakeholders and journalists find useful. Create talking points for your subject matter experts (SMEs) by anticipating what journalists and stakeholders will want to know.

Themes, messages and talking points statements should be used in every engagement or conversation applicable to the key publics and stakeholders. Your theme is only one to two words that describe an overarching idea or message. Your messages provide context and support for the theme. Your talking points support the message with facts. There may be more than one theme for every objective and there should be 2-3 messages for every theme.

Tips to Craft Effective Messages

  • Use your research on the key publics, stakeholders and the situation itself.
  • Start with the end goal in mind: what action/knowledge/behavior change do you want to see as a result?
  • Connect with communication goals and objectives: does the message advance the strategies and objectives to reach the goal?
  • Keep it simple and eliminate jargon.
  • Make it compelling and memorable, but not a slogan or tagline.

Remember, keep your target public and stakeholders in mind. The language you choose should resonate and motivate them.

Look at these common scenarios for themes that support different strategies, messages that reach the audience, and talking points that validate your message.

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Examples of Themes, Messages, Talking Points

Theme:Partner­ship

Message: Our troops are dedicated to working side-by-side with NATO Forces.

Talking Points:

  • Over five 9-month rotations, the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) participated in nine major exercises across Europe, while supporting 21 different nations.
  • The 1st CAB flew over 14,000 hours, drove 144,000 miles, and transported 8,000 people on our aircraft, including congressional delegations, senior U.S. military leaders, and top-level officials from our NATO allies. The efforts contribute to long-lasting peace.

Theme:Confid­ence

Message: Iraq forces gained the confidence needed to stand on their own and fight for the future of their nation.

Talking Points:

  • In the past four years, Iraq and U.S. forces trained up over 25 fighter and cargo pilots.
  • Iraq leaders built coalitions with neighboring nations and worked to establish trade laws.

Theme:Respect

Message: Our service members are trained to understand and respect local customs and standards.

Talking Points:

  • Over the course of six years, U.S. forces deployed 24 social scientists who embedded themselves in the Afghanistan community.
  • 45% of the leaders deployed to bases overseas are fluent in the language of their host country.

Theme:Security

Message: We continue to work with our Canadian partners to provide security.

Talking Points:

  • Over the last five years, Canadian and U.S. forces jointly developed a new personnel screening facility.
  • In the last two years, Canadian and U.S. forces jointly provided positive entry control for over 16,000 vehicles.

Theme:Civil Support

Message: Our service members work with Afghanistan forces to prepare them to take the lead.

Talking Points:

  • U.S. and Afghanistan forces worked together to distribute over 120,000 pounds of food.
  • U.S. health care teams helped Afghanistan forces set up and run over 2,000 remote aid stations throughout the countryside.