What Are Themes, Messages and Talking Points?
Themes are unifying ideas or intentions that support the narrative and are 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 and 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 points that relate 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 with them 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