How to Get Great Media Coverage: The Sound Bite

In order to stand out and be heard in this unbelievably noisy world, sound bites can be your best friend. Authors ask me all the time how I manage to come up with them, so I thought this would be a good subject this week. I’ll start with an appropriate quote:

”Anybody can make the simple complicated.
Creativity is making the complicated simple.”
–Charles Mingus

Isn’t that the truth.

Whether you yourself want to know how to create sound bites, or you have clients you want to pass this along to, here are some frequent questions I receive along with some tips for creating them that I hope you will find helpful.

Q. What the heck are sounds bites and why do I need to know how to create them?

Well, I’ll tell you why. In this day and age with busy people often in overwhelm, no one has time to try and figure out who you are and what you’re trying to say. You have to be able to summarize what your book is about and any of its key messages in a compelling and intriguing way in mere seconds. One recent news contact said, “If you can’t express what you want and why it’s newsworthy in ten seconds, you’re off the phone.” He’s not kidding.

Q. So What Exactly is a Sound bite?

A sound bite is a short sentence or phrase that is easy to remember. It’s compressed meaning with an element of surprise attached. Basically, you want to be able to take the key messages from your book and sum them up with a snappy phrase that sticks in the brain. For example, I heard an interview with a relationship expert who ended a story with the following line: “When it comes to relationships, perfection equals pure fiction!” Bingo. Easy to remember. Sticks in the brain.

Sound bites can be used when pitching an interview or a story (and are often the reason the interview is booked), or during the interview itself. It helps the audience to easily understand what you’re saying.

Q. How Do I Begin to Create A Sound Bite?

First consider these elements:

Analogy: A comparison of two unlike situations. For example: “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

Unexpected metaphors: Compare your key message to something familiar. For example: “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” or “Laughter is the music of the soul.”

Rhymes: Two words that sound alike. For example: “Shop till you drop.”

Mnemonic: A tool to remember facts or a large amount of information. For example: To remember the first 8 U.S. Presidents, memorize, “Will a jolly man make a jolly visitor?” (George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren)
Triples: The human mind likes threes. For example: “I came, I saw, I went.” Another one is, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Q. How Do I Write My Sound Bites?

  • Think about the key messages contained in your book. Write them down.
  • Write down key words and their synonyms regarding each key message.
  • Write whatever comes to mind initially. You can edit later.
  • Circle every descriptive word you’ve written.
  • Review each descriptive word. Is there a better, more robust choice? If so, use it.
  • Draft a one or two sentence sound bite using the most important words on your list.
  • Read your sound bite out loud. Read it to someone else.  Change anything that sounds awkward.
  • Remember, it’s an evolution, and while you might hit on a great sound bite right away, often it takes some time and thought.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Q. What Else Should I know about Sound Bites?

Remember, your sound bite or hook must be a grabber. Dull and boring just isn’t going to cut it. You want a memorable message that makes listeners, viewers and readers what to buy your book and become a raving fan. Your sound bites should:

  • be 10 – 20 seconds long for podcasts, radio, video and television. (up to :30 seconds for print)
    explain who you are, what you’re about, and why you make a difference.
  • be customized for different occasions.
  • be memorized. You need to know them really, really well so that when you say them, it sounds spontaneous–not rehearsed.
  • be communicated with a tone of excitement and should stand out from whatever else you’re saying.

Creating great sound bites is a skill, just like any other, and must be practiced. Listen around you and see if you can pick out any sound bites during your day-to-day life. I guarantee you after awhile they will jump right out at you. You will know when you’ve heard an effective one.

Remember . . .

Sound bites are the desserts of an interview. Their taste lingers in the audience’s mind.

To your success!



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