Creating Campaign Talking Points - National Democratic Training Committee

Having a clear, consistent message is integral to the success of a political campaign. Good messaging builds a candidate’s reputation and reinforces the campaign brand. 

As you build a campaign’s messaging, there are specific ideas and policy points the candidate will return to time and time again. These are a candidate’s talking points. 

What are Campaign Talking Points?

Talking points are clear, short phrases that outline a candidate’s policies and ideas. Talking points should be three to four concise sentences at most. 

Good talking points allow candidates to guide conversations toward the issues where they have strong policy proposals and hope to make a difference. The candidate returns to these phrases to guide speeches, interviews, conversations with voters, and other public interactions. 

How do You Craft Talking Points?

Answer these questions when putting together talking points:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Where are you talking to them?
  • What two main points need to be made? 

These questions help the campaign create talking points that are effective and newsworthy. Talking points give supporters and the media something concrete to take away from an event or interaction, such as a specific policy proposal. 

Formatting

Keep a few formatting rules in mind when creating talking points. Make sure the talking points are concise. If they are longer than 3 or 4 sentences, condense the message. Ensure talking points are closely aligned with the candidate’s views. If they are not in line with the candidate’s policies, a rewrite is necessary. 

Also, think about the structure of a talking point. They should be arranged as a “truth sandwich.” This means formatting the message as a true statement, followed by defining the problem, then providing a solution to the problem. 

It is important to know if the talking points have facts and figures to support any claims made. A good rule is to use at least four or five facts to support the candidate’s position. But remember to never let talking points get too long. They should be quick, digestible phrases that guide a candidate back to the main points. 

In addition to crafting talking points about what the candidate supports, be able to talk about policies the candidate does not support. Make sure to fully understand the arguments for positions that don’t align with the candidate’s platform. Craft rebuttals showing constituents why your candidate’s ideas are better than their opponent’s.

Refining Talking Points 

After crafting talking points with those questions in mind, begin to refine them. The best way to do this is to practice.

Practice saying talking points out loud with friends, family members, and campaign staff. Get feedback on how clearly you were able to communicate key points. If they have trouble picking out the main point, keep refining. 

Refining talking points also makes it easier to tailor the content to your audience. Always consider an audience’s knowledge level on a particular topic. For example, if you are speaking to the local parents association, be prepared to repeat talking points on everything concerning education. 

Lastly, think of all the ways someone could critique your message. Come up with, and write down ways to refute those critiques.

Talking points are a crucial part of a candidate’s message. Good talking points concisely give voters an idea of who a candidate is, and what they stand for. They contain core policy proposals, as well as the principal reasons why the candidate is the best person for the job. They are necessary to stay on message for the entire campaign. 

When crafting talking points, be sure to use NDTC’s Talking Points Worksheet as a checklist so you don’t miss any of the steps discussed here.  

In addition, take our course: How to Write Political Campaign Messaging for Your Candidate. It provides a more comprehensive introduction to campaign messaging. It covers skills such as creating a candidate’s voice, using storytelling in a campaign, and connecting with a variety of audiences. 

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