Posts Tagged ‘sound bites’
The last time you watched a major event on television—a presidential debate, the Academy Awards, the Super Bowl—did you have your smartphone within reaching distance?
Odds are you did. In the age of social media, many of us have become “two screeners” who glance up at our television monitors before looking down at our phones or laptops to see what others are saying about the program we’re watching. We occasionally go one step further, commenting about the show on our blogs, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages.
That behavior isn’t as rare as you might think. A survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project last July found that more than half of all television viewers use their phones ”for engagement, diversion, or interaction with other people while watching TV” at least once per month.
That has dramatic implications for anyone who will ever be interviewed on television, since viewers will inevitably share some of the quotes from your interview on their social networks.
Knowing that in advance offers you a tremendous advantage. It allows you to plan your “tweet-worthy” quotes before your interview, giving you a lot of control over what the audience ends up sharing. On the flip side, it also means you’ll squander that opportunity if you speak in long sentences without natural break points.
You can see that dynamic play out in real time. For example, when I watched the presidential debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, I occasionally heard one of the candidates say something that I recognized as tweet-worthy—and moments later, saw my Twitter stream fill up with people sharing that very quote.
How can you create a predictably “tweet-worthy” quote?
First, it has to be short. According to Twitter, the top tweet of 2012 was posted to President Obama’s Twitter account on Election Night. It consisted of just three words (and a photo): “Four more years.” In second place was a five-word tweet from singer Justin Bieber. Your tweetable quotes don’t have to be that short, but don’t use all 140 characters available to you. Since people will want to add their own commentary to your quote, aim for 80 characters or less. Plus, shorter tweets get retweeted more often.
Second, it has to be simple. Twitter isn’t the place for complexity. Quotes containing strong, straightforward, and clear language tend to get shared more often than those featuring overly complex or tentative language. One of the top tweets of the year came from an NFL player frustrated with the League’s replacement referees: “Fuck it NFL…Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.” You probably shouldn’t be that profane, but you can learn from the simplicity of his message.
Third, it helps to be memorable. When Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama during the final presidential debate for shrinking the size of U.S. Navy, Mr. Obama responded with this quip: “We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.” That 85-character rejoinder became so popular on Twitter, it spawned its own hashtag.
Fourth, it has to be on message. The tweet-worthy quotes you develop should be in service of your larger purpose—delivering a clear message to your audience that helps you accomplish your goals.
Before your next media interview, develop a few tweetable quotes. You may be surprised to find that the “two screeners” become close allies in your effort to spread your message across the Internet.
Brad Phillips is the author of the new book “The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview.” Versions of this article originally appeared on PR 2.0 Strategies.
Tags: media training tips, social media, sound bites
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Note: This is a guest post from Marcia Yudkin, author of the new Kindle ebook, The Sound Bite Workbook. I’ve read it, and can tell you it’s a steal at $2.99. You can download it here.
On camera, on the phone or in person, sound bites often make the difference between an interview featured on the evening news or the front page and exchanges with reporters that end up in the waste basket. Unless you’re uncommonly quick-tongued, you need to think up sound bites in advance and toss them into your interview at the appropriate moment.
Everyone in journalism – and the general public too – recognizes a terrific sound bite when they hear it. It grabs the ear and the mind. It sticks in memory because it contains compressed meaning with an element of surprise. A great sound bite is fresh, frisky and fun to repeat.
Here are five techniques for constructing memorable sound bites:
1. Triples: Remember “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”) from high school Latin? Or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” from the Declaration of Independence? Many people do. That’s because the human mind likes threes. Make a list of keywords for your subject matter and look for catchy triplet combinations. For instance, if you’re a financial planner, you could tell a reporter that you “help ordinary people get rich without working on Wall Street, inheriting wealth or marrying a millionaire.”
2. Clever Mnemonic: Some schoolkids remember the structure of our solar system with a little ditty in which the first letter of each word corresponds to a planet: “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles.” Make up an interesting pattern like this for a well-known set of initials, such as “We tell our clients that in our firm, ‘CPA’ stands for ‘Court Prosperity Avidly.’”
3. Unexpected Metaphors: Compare your quest, cause or issue to something familiar, using words that relate the abstraction to a specific, wry situation in real life. On NPR’s Marketplace show recently, I heard Howard Gleckman of the Tax Policy Center say, “It’s as if Republicans and Democrats are planning a trip but they disagree over whether you should start the trip from Buenos Aires or from Greenland.” That’s much more luscious than simply “…start the trip from Point A or Point B” because the geographical disparity of Buenos Aires and Greenland takes a moment to register, then explodes pleasurably in the mind.
4. Contrast, Conflict or Paradox: Advertising tag lines often combine opposites or near-opposites in ironic, attention-getting ways, as in “Our food is fresh. Our customers are spoiled” (online grocer FreshDirect) or “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” (M&M candy). You can do the same by brainstorming words and ideas for your theme, then looking for contraries like local/national, full/empty, funny/serious, up/down, etc., and building something catchy out of it.
5. Rhymes: We normally associate corny verses with greeting cards or jump-rope chants. But Johnny Cochran’s irresistible courtroom concoction, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” had an undeniably serious impact in a notorious murder case. Muhammad Ali is one public figure who used rhyming to get quoted, explaining his boxing strategy as “I outwit them and then I out-hit them.” You may need to grin as you deliver a rhymed sound bite, and the reporter or talk-show host may groan, but chances are it’ll get passed along.
As Mark Twain (one of the most quoted authors ever) wrote, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” For you, tweaking a rough idea into a tight, bright arrangement of words can turn a so-so sound bite into a sensational one. Pay attention to alliteration (repeated initial letters) and rhythm as you twist your phrase or sentence into its time – and yours – in the limelight.
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Tags: media training tips, sound bites
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According to a 1992 study from the Center for Media and Public Affairs at Harvard University, the average “sound bite” on the evening news was just 7.3 seconds (it may be even shorter today).
Since the average person speaks about three words per second, that means we have just about 21 words to communicate something of meaning.
Conveying something meaningful in so few words can be difficult, and little frustrates spokespersons more than trying to develop a brief sound bite that gets their message across with precision. But the work is worth it, as that single line or two may be all you need to shift public opinion in your direction.
Below are a few types (and examples) of sound bites:
SIMILE, METAPHOR, OR ANALOGY
- ”It’s like trying to fill the bathtub with the drain open.” – Mary Johnson, Medicare policy analyst
- “Any one flight in space on the space shuttle is as dangerous as 60 combat missions during wartime.” – John Young, astronaut
- “Our choices right now are not between good and better; they’re between bad and worse.” — Alan Greenspan
- “She couldn’t get elected if two of her opponents died.” – Peck Young, political consultant
- “When you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about money,’ it’s about money. And when you hear somebody say, ‘This is not about sex,’ it’s about sex.” – Fmr. Sen. Dale Bumpers during Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearing
- “How many times are we going to gamble with lives, economies, and ecosystems?” – John Hocevar, Greenpeace USA
REFERENCES TO POP CULTURE
- “Republicans are as serious about fiscal responsibility as Paris Hilton is about modesty.” – Marshall Wittman, political pundit
Now it’s your turn. Try to develop at least one sound bite for each of your three main messages.
If you’re stuck, take a look at the “quotes of the week” section in many of the nation’s newspapers, magazines, and websites. Newsweek, for example, highlights six of the previous week’s best quotes in every issue.
Don’t worry if they don’t come to you immediately. Keep an ear out for sound bites as you have conversations in your office – what are intended as throwaway comments during hallway banter often contain a gem worth saving.
Tags: media training messages, sound bites
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