How do journalists and TV producers decide whether to interview you?
It often depends on who provides the best sound bite.
Have you ever watched a talk show when the guest (sometimes a celebrity) seems oblivious to the fact they’re on live TV and only have a short amount of time?
Their message often gets cut short by a commercial break, often awkwardly.
Many people take ten sentences (or more) to say what they could in one.
Developing the ability to speak in sound bites is easy if you know a few key techniques and tips.
Here are 6 tips for creating memorable sound bites when pitching the media:
1) Keep it short. Say what you have to say in one or two sentences, no more.
2) Be specific and vivid. In an interview with BusinessWeek, Donald Broughton, an analyst for Avondale Partners, was talking about the stocks of two railroad companies: Union Pacific and Burlington Northern.
Notice the language he used to make what would otherwise be boring memorable for the journalist interviewing him:
“It’s one thing if you steal dirt from my front yard, and it’s another if you break into my house and take my sterling
silver,” Broughton said. “For six quarters, Union Pacific’s been walking around Burlington Northern’s house and taking as much silver, jewels and flat- screen TVs they can get their hands on.”
That’s speaking very specifically and vividly. It’s no surprise that all of the different analysts that journalists could quote, they quoted Broughton. He knew how to speak in sound bites.
3) Express a solid opinion. Many people are afraid to voice their opinions because they fear that others will disagree. But people who are good at giving sound bites know that the media are looking for strong opinions. If some people don’t disagree with what you’re saying, you’re probably not saying much.
When Warren Buffett was interviewed about the tax President Obama wanted to levy on financial corporations, he said, “Look at the damage Fannie (Mae) and Freddie (Mac) caused, and they were run by Congress. Should they have a special tax on Congressmen because they let this thing happen to Freddie and Fannie? I don’t think so.”
His willingness to express a solid opinion got him quoted. But did you also notice how he made a comparison?
We’ll talk about that more in a minute.
Robert Thompson is a professor of TV and pop culture at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and one of the most quoted professors in the world.
In fact, in 2007 the Associated Press referred to him as ‘the most quoted man in America’ next to the President.
He is so good at giving sound bites that he’ll sometimes get 60, 70 or even 80 media calls in one day. If you Google his name, you’ll see he has been quoted virtually everywhere, including more than 40 times in the New York Times in just four years. How does he do this?
“Unlike many people in his position, Robert almost always finds an angle or perspective I haven’t thought about,” says AP television writer David Bauder.
4) Repeat the same word. In describing Paris Hilton, Thompson said, “She’s the non-story that keeps on being a story.”
When giving advice about investing, Warren Buffett said, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
5) Compare something to something else that everyone already knows about.
In describing Katie Couric’s debut on CBS Evening News, Robert Thompson said that her first broadcast would be “some of the most scrutinized frame-by-frame video images since the Zapruder film (of the JFK assassination.)”
By using a comparison to an example everyone is familiar with, he was able to make his point in a memorable way.
6) Speak in metaphors. When talking about Fox News, Thompson says, “they want to be the David of David and Goliath, but they are the Goliath.”
When speaking in this type of short metaphor, Thompson makes his point in a way that gets the media to pay attention and quote him, rather that someone else.
It’s critically important to use sound bites when pitching the media, in press releases and being interviewed by them.
They’ll be grateful, and you’ll be thrilled with all the media coverage you receive!
As a gift for being here, I’d like to offer you a free 28-page PDF report that reveals 10 proven strategies for getting the media attention you deserve.