Many large organizations (and some small ones too) create sets of talking points for their board and members to refer to when discussing the club.   This is a great idea!  It helps ensure that everyone is “on message” and the views of the organization are displayed in a constant manner.  There are two pitfalls to avoid when using talking points, and they have social media implications.

Commonly talking points are created after a bad public relations incident.  For example, a financial report comes out that paints a less than rosy picture of your organization’s financial health.  An article is published that is a little one-sided for your liking.  One of your members does something and lands in the news and a lot of attention is drawn to your organization.  After all these situations, and many others, an organization often comes up with a list of brief statements and facts to refer to in an effort to stay on message and drive the news story in the direction of their choosing.

My question is this: why wait?  If you stand around waiting for the hammer to fall, and then scurry to write-up some talking points when it does, you will be behind the news story.  You can’t get away with “no comment” and hope to sell your side of the issue later.  By that time the story will be old news and all people will have walked away with is the other side’s viewpoint.

Talking points are often facts that reflect the organization in a good light.  Why can’t we make these the story, rather than the excuse and/or apology?  If you know your organization is great at something, or you just landed a huge contract, or some other wonderful thing happened – tell people!  Don’t hold on to all the good news until you need to fight off the bad.  Lead with it.  By constantly leading with good stories about your organization you build up your brand in a positive light.  The stronger and more positive your brand the less weight negative arguments will have in the minds of listeners.

This brings me to the second pitfall I mentioned.  Don’t wait for the audience to come to you.  Take your message to the audience.  Talking points serve a purpose of giving someone something to say when they are asked about an issue.  It would be good for your organization if these messages reached an audience.  So why do so many organizations wait for the audience to ask just the right question to get the scripted response?  Talking points can serve a second purpose – giving your people something good to say about your organization.  They can talk you up on social network sites, at cocktail parties, at work or in other organizations, etc.  Giving people something to talk about that they have pride in is like getting free advertising!

I encourage you to use your organization’s talking points as material for social media marketing.  Talking points are perfect for Twitter and Facebook posts because they are so brief.  Add on a link to a more lengthy news story on your website and you’ve reached an audience (who might potentially share it within their own networks) and you’ve driven traffic to your website.  By tracking what is “re-tweeted” and which links are clicked on you can see how audiences feel about different stories and what platforms they are on.