I’ve spent a good chunk of the last two days going over key messages with staff and clients.
Perhaps because of time spent in politics early in my career, terms like “key messages” and “talking points” have negative connotations for me.
Here’s the thing: talking points – including the ones I’ve been training people on – are not necessarily bullshit PR spin. They are a way of ensuring that folks speak with a coherent voice. The internet and social media have humanized corporations. This is a great thing. However, there are still times when organizations have to sing the same tune.
Here are a few tips on how to train people on key messages:
- Get trainees a written document with important messages in advance and give them enough time to read it in full.
- Prioritize the content from highest to lowest importance.
- Training should be a “dialogue” with lots of back and forth rather than the Communications person simply talking at the trainee. This means the trainer needs to ask lots of questions.
- Actual mockups/dress rehearsals are very effective. The closer practice is to the real thing, the better. If geography gets in the way of face to face interaction try Skype or some kind of videoconferencing.
- The level of detail you get into changes with the audience. That said, it is ALWAYS helpful to explain the bigger picture context and rationale that underpins the messages. You want trainees to understand where what they are saying comes from as opposed to acting like robots and trying to memorize the content. I try to make sure people understand “the spirit” of specific talking points.
- Always end the conversation by reminding trainees how they can contact you. Whether they’re seasoned veterans or newbies, access to a Comms staffer acts like a security blanket. If they follow up with questions answer them as quickly as you can.
Despite the revolution in Communications, the need for firms to speak with one voice in certain situations is not going away any time soon. As such, “talking points” are still going to be around too.
Do you have any techniques that work for you when training staff or clients on key messages?