29 Jul You have my word: the sound bite culture
News media thrive on sound bites. Great (and not so great) media coverage can come out of it and if you want your words to be repeated on news, in the paper or online, you must be able to deliver a short, pithy quote.
Without practice or some level of media training, many people are surprised at how they suddenly become less-than-skilled at communicating when being interviewed. Whether this is due to nerves, pressure to only say the right things, or the unique experience of being interviewed by a reporter, it can happen to anyone. This is often manifested in one of the following ways:
- Incoherent ramblings
- Forgetting key points that you wanted to convey
- Giving very long responses that are weak, go nowhere or ramble on
- Not saying much at all
- Saying what you think the reporter wants to hear, not what needs to be said.
The result will likely be media coverage that you are not very proud of. If your sentences are not concise, clear and strong, you will either be misquoted or not quoted at all. So how can you deliver a great sound bite?
First, preparation is key. Preparation for the interview will guarantee that your answers will flow and have a sense of structure, presenting you as an expert in your field and a reliable source to take sound bites from. While you need to make sure you know what you’re about, it is also imperative that you know what the journalist wants to know. Know whom they represent and what they want to know so your preparation is tailored to what they want to hear.
Next, think of the reporter who is taking notes from your interview, and make their life easy. If you find yourself giving a weak or long-winded response, make sure you summarise your point at the end with a strong sound bite that can be used.
If you are being interviewed for broadcast where it is pre-recorded or there is a good chance of segments of your comments being replayed, then think of how your comments will be edited. If you do not deliver concise responses, know that you will either not be replayed or that your comments will be edited into soundbites.
Also keep in mind that a sound bite requires clarity not only in what you’re trying to say, but also in the way it sounds. It should only be your voice, preceded by a short silence. It is a common tendency to interrupt the questioner in order to make a point, but keep in mind that there’s no way of extracting a clear sound bite if this happens. Keeping your nerves, enthusiasm and lack of awareness under control can help you deliver a memorable statement by simply pacing yourself and your thought processes.
There’s also nearly always an opportunity at the end of a broadcast interview to deliver a sound bite. Take note of a cue, and deliver a ten-second summary of your argument. There’s an excellent chance it will be passed on and used again, boosting media coverage for your brand.