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A talking point in debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to support persuasively one side taken on an issue. Such statements can either be free standing or created as retorts to the opposition's talking points and are frequently used in public relations, particularly in areas heavy in debate such as politics and marketing.
A political think tank will strategize the most effective informational attack on a target topic and launch talking points from media personalities to saturate discourse in order to frame a debate in their favor, standardizing the responses of sympathizers to their unique cause.
When used politically in this way, the typical purpose of a talking point is to propagandize, specifically using the technique of argumentum ad nauseam, i.e. continuous repetition within media outlets until accepted as fact.
The framing of political discourse in terms of simple talking points has been criticized by media personalities such as comedian Jon Stewart for being a superficial examination of issues.
From a Marketing point of view
The creation of talking points is not taught in journalism classes. Journalists and other media are typically the recipient of talking points, not their source.
Talking points anticipate what the press will ask or the opposition will say and pre-empt. The intent of talking points is to "sell" your product, your point of view; no matter if that product is a new widget, a different brand of soap or a political policy position. By definition, they are never "fair and balanced", but intended to present only one side, and that in the best possible manner.
The goal of talking points is to make certain that everyone on your Team—staff, spokespersons, surrogates, "talking heads"—anyone you view as "speaking for you"—is "on the same page," i.e. saying the same thing. One need only watch a couple of hours of different Cable News channels to observe the effective use of talking points — the guests and panelists, the talking heads — all say the same thing, frequently using exactly the same words about some topic or other.
Over the years, the idiom "on the same page" has become the current version of "in the same ballpark", or "preaching to the choir."
Talking points are encountered extensively via the media (television), and their use of talking heads. These talking heads rely upon talking points during their 3–7 minutes of airtime to convey the "pre-approved" point of view on the given subject.
Talking points are used to assure agreement and common response by spokespersons or surrogates to any "political" or "sensitive" topic. They are used to sell your product, your point of view; no matter if that product is a new widget, a different brand of soap or a political policy position. They, in fact (if done well), are a one-page list of items, thereby making it easy to be "on the same page".
1. "talking point" at thefreedictionary.com
2. "talking point" at dictionary.com
3. "talking point" at wordnetweb.princeton.edu
4. "talking point" at merriam-webster.com
5. "Jon Stewart: 'CNN could exercise some editorial authority and integrity'" by Liz Blondsense at the BlondeSense blog