Being quotable can earn you a top spot on a journalist’s list of go-to sources.
So, what makes a good sound bite?
Ideally, it should be something your audience can remember. That’s why making a good comparison or conjuring up a strong visual image can make for a compelling sound bite.
But you also want to make your point. A good sound bite should deliver your message in a powerful and easy-to-understand way.
A quick caveat: If you make a comparison, make sure it is a valid and appropriate one. It must apply to the situation — not be too dramatic or overstated, and certainly not something inappropriate to the situation.
The next time you prepare for that big media interview, here are some tips for mastering the art of the sound bite:
Keep your responses short. Television news packages can run on average from about 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Within that time, the reporter needs to explain the story and provide reaction. That means your air time may only be 10 seconds or less. Even in print and online, your comments are likely to be given no more than one or two sentences in a story.
Practice before the interview. Always go into an interview with three key messages that you want to deliver. Write down your messages and then refine what you want to say. Ask a colleague to conduct a mock interview with you so you can practice delivering the responses and thinking on your feet when the reporter asks follow-up questions.
Don’t talk too fast. Talk slowly enough so that the reporter can get everything down. Longer, complex sentences can be hard for busy print reporters to write down, especially if you continue talking after you’ve expressed the thought. A television audience can miss your point as well if you talk to fast and do not speak clearly.
The media will return to you for comment if you can provide pithy, succinct quotes that capture the essence of something, and you will be representing your organization well if you are delivering a key message at the same time.